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These Religions Celebrate the Most Holidays

Who Celebrates

the Most?

With feasts, fasts, and prayers, the

world’s nine largest religions will collectively observe more than a hundred holidays in 2018, scholars estimate.

Hindus Lead the Festivities

Hinduism recognizes the birthdays and

milestones of hundreds of deities. It also commemorates the changing of the seasons, the harvest, and lunar phases.

Size of the square

represents the

number of holidays

39

HINDUISM

1 billion followers

days

per year

Holidays

New Year

celebration

17

8

5

2

2

2

1

1

1

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

33

JUDAISM

14.7 million

 

days

11

9

8

2

2

1

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

26

SIKHISM

25.3 million

 

days

4

4

3

3

3

2

2

2

2

1

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

11

BAHA’I FAITH

7.9 million

 

days

4

3

2

1

1

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

12

CHRISTIANITY

2.4 billion

 

days

4

3

2

1

1

1

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

New Years all year round

While Christians follow the Gregorian

calendar, many traditions follow other

calendar systems and celebrate the

New Year during different months.

7

ISLAM

1.7 billion

days

2

2

1

1

1

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

4

TAOISM

8.6 million

 

days

1

1

1

1

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

3

CONFUCIANISM

8.5 million

 

days

1

1

1

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

3

BUDDHISM

516 million

 

days

1

1

1

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

Monica serrano, NGM STAFF; Kelsey Nowakowski; SOURCEs: J. GORDON MELTON, BAYLOR UNIVERSITY; PAUL MIRECKI, DANIEL STEVENSON, and SAMUEL HAYIM BRODY, UNIVERSITY OF KANSAS; BRIAN COLLINS, OHIO UNIVERSITY; SIMRAN JEET SINGH, SIKH COALITION; GERALD FILSON AND CEDRIC GABER, BAHA’I COMMUNITY OF CANADA; JEFFREY RICHEY, BEREA COLLEGE; NATIONAL PORTAL OF INDIA;

World Religion Database

Who Celebrates the Most?

With feasts, fasts, and prayers, the world’s nine largest religions will collectively

observe more than a hundred holidays in 2018, scholars estimate.

Hindus Lead the Festivities

New Year

celebration

Holidays

17

Hinduism recognizes the birthdays and milestones of hundreds of deities. It also commemrates the changing of the seasons, the harvest, and lunar phases.

8

5

2

2

2

1

1

1

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

HINDUISM

1 billion followers

39

days

per year

Size of the square

represents the number

of holidays

11

9

8

2

2

1

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

JUDAISM

14.7 million

33

days

4

4

3

3

3

2

2

2

2

1

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

SIKHISM

25.3 million

26

days

2

2

1

1

1

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

4

3

ISLAM

1.7 billion

2

1

1

7

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

days

Baha’i Faith

7.9 million

11

4

3

days

2

1

1

1

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

CHRISTIANITY

2.4 billion

 

12

days

1

1

1

1

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

Taoism

8.6 million

4

days

1

1

1

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

1

1

1

BUDDHISM

516 million

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

Confucianism

8.5 million

 

3

days

3

days

New Years all year round

While Christians follow the Gregorian

calendar, many traditions follow other

calendar systems and celebrate the

New Year during different months.

Monica serrano, NGM STAFF; Kelsey Nowakowski; SOURCEs: J. GORDON MELTON, BAYLOR

UNIVERSITY; PAUL MIRECKI, DANIEL STEVENSON, and SAMUEL HAYIM BRODY, UNIVERSITY OF KANSAS;

BRIAN COLLINS, OHIO UNIVERSITY; SIMRAN JEET SINGH, SIKH COALITION; GERALD FILSON AND CEDRIC

GABER, BAHA’I COMMUNITY OF CANADA; JEFFREY RICHEY, BEREA COLLEGE; World Religion Database

Who Celebrates the Most?

With feasts, fasts, and prayers, the world’s nine largest religions will collectively

observe more than a hundred holidays in 2018, scholars estimate.

New Year

celebration

Holidays

Hindus Lead the Festivities

17

Hinduism recognizes the birthdays and milestones of hundreds of deities. It also commemorates the changing

of the seasons, the harvest,

and lunar phases.

8

5

2

2

2

1

1

1

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

HINDUISM

1 billion followers

39

days

per year

Size of the

square represents the

number of holidays

2

2

1

1

1

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

ISLAM

1.7 billion

7

days

4

4

3

3

3

2

2

2

2

1

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

SIKHISM

25.3 million

11

26

9

8

days

2

2

1

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

JUDAISM

14.7 million

33

days

4

3

2

1

1

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

Baha’i Faith

7.9 million

1

1

1

1

4

3

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

2

11

1

1

1

Taoism

8.6 million

days

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

4

CHRISTIANITY

2.4 billion

 

days

1

1

1

12

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

days

BUDDHISM

516 million

1

1

1

New Years all year round

3

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

days

While Christians follow the Gregorian

calendar, many traditions follow other

calendar systems and celebrate the

New Year during different months.

Confucianism

8.5 million

 

3

days

Monica serrano, NGM STAFF; Kelsey Nowakowski; SOURCEs: J. GORDON MELTON, BAYLOR UNIVERSITY;

PAUL MIRECKI, DANIEL STEVENSON, and SAMUEL HAYIM BRODY, UNIVERSITY OF KANSAS; BRIAN COLLINS, OHIO UNIVERSITY; SIMRAN JEET SINGH, SIKH COALITION; GERALD FILSON AND CEDRIC GABER, BAHA’I COMMUNITY OF CANADA;

JEFFREY RICHEY, BEREA COLLEGE; World Religion Database

Who Celebrates the Most?

With feasts, fasts, and prayers, the world’s nine largest religions will collectively observe more than a hundred holidays in 2018, scholars estimate.

New Year

celebration

Hindus Lead the Festivities

Holidays

17

Hinduism recognizes the birthdays and

milestones of hundreds of deities. It also

commemorates the changing of the sea-

sons, the harvest, and lunar phases.

8

5

2

2

2

1

1

1

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

HINDUISM

1 billion followers

4

3

2

1

1

1

39

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

days

per year

CHRISTIANITY

2.4 billion

 

Size of the

square represents

the number of

holidays

12

days

4

3

2

1

1

11

9

8

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

Baha’i Faith

7.9 million

2

2

1

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

11

JUDAISM

14.7 million

days

4

4

3

3

3

2

2

2

2

33

1

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

days

SIKHISM

25.3 million

2

2

1

1

1

26

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

ISLAM

1.7 billion

days

7

days

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

New Years all year round

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

Confucianism

8.5 million

 

Taoism

8.6 million

While Christians follow the Gregorian

calendar, many traditions follow other

calendar systems and celebrate the

New Year during different months.

3

4

1

1

1

days

days

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

BUDDHISM

516 million

3

days

Monica serrano, NGM STAFF; Kelsey Nowakowski

SOURCEs: J. GORDON MELTON, BAYLOR UNIVERSITY; PAUL MIRECKI, DANIEL STEVENSON, and SAMUEL HAYIM BRODY, UNIVERSITY OF KANSAS;

BRIAN COLLINS, OHIO UNIVERSITY; SIMRAN JEET SINGH, SIKH COALITION; GERALD FILSON AND CEDRIC GABER, BAHA’I COMMUNITY OF CANADA;

JEFFREY RICHEY, BEREA COLLEGE; World Religion Database

This story appears in the December 2017 issue of National Geographic magazine.

Somewhere in the world, a meal, ritual, or offering is being prepared in religious observance—most likely by the busy adherents of Roman Catholicism or Hinduism. If Catholics celebrated every saint’s day or Hindus commemorated each deity’s birthday, nearly the entire year would be accounted for.

The Jewish calendar has dozens of holidays—but the Torah only mandates strict observance of the holiest five. Muslims, too, are holiday minimalists. In Islam the biggest celebrations are saved for the last days of its two major holidays: Id al-Fitr for Ramadan, and Id al-Adha to end the hajj pilgrimage.

Compiling a schedule of the holidays most widely observed by the world’s nine largest religions—as seen above—is no simple task. Different countries and regions, as well as denominations, celebrate their own versions of the holidays, and some religions follow a unique calendar. China’s lunar calendar runs on a 60-year cycle; India uses several types of calendars.

“Every year different countries will have a political battle over adding or changing a holiday,” says J. Gordon Melton, a professor of religion at Baylor University and author of the encyclopedic Religious Celebrations.

The establishment of the international date line in 1884 pushed holidays that used to begin at sunset to the next day in many countries. Today holiday scheduling can be influenced by things like economic productivity, which is the reason some celebrations move around each year to bookend a weekend.

INDIA

HOLIDAYS

A year

48

U.S.

10

secular

secular

 

5

9

India Out-Celebrates the U.S.

Some religiously diverse countries like

India formally recognize the holidays of

both majority and minority religions.

Monica serrano, NGM STAFF; Kelsey Nowakowski

Sources: NATIONAL PORTAL OF INDIA;

U.S. OFFICE OF PERSONNEL MANAGEMENT

India Out-Celebrates

the United States

INDIA

HOLIDAYS

A year

48

Some religiously diverse countries like India formally recognize the holidays of both majority and minority religions.

U.S.

10

secular

secular

 

5

9

Monica serrano, NGM STAFF; Kelsey Nowakowski

Sources: NATIONAL PORTAL OF INDIA; U.S. OFFICE OF PERSONNEL MANAGEMENT

The only religious federal holiday in the U.S. is Christmas, while other countries have a more inclusive approach to observance. In multi-theistic India, citizens can choose from a list of Christian, Muslim, Sikh, and Buddhist holidays, in addition to 28 recognized Hindu holidays, to take off. “In the modern mixed religious environment, having holidays recognized by the government is a step toward public acceptance for smaller religious groups,” says Melton.

Estimates of followers as of 2015. Only days of observance widely celebrated across the religion or by most of its adherents are shown. All dates correspond to the solar calendar. Buddhist dates apply to holidays in most of East Asia; Tibet and Sri Lanka celebrate those holy days on different dates. In addition to its five main religions, India recognizes days for Jainism and Zoroastrianism.
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