Online College Courses for Credit



Author: Ted Fairchild

This lesson will provide information on religious festivals and their significance to various religions.

See More
Fast, Free College Credit

Developing Effective Teams

Let's Ride
*No strings attached. This college course is 100% free and is worth 1 semester credit.

29 Sophia partners guarantee credit transfer.

311 Institutions have accepted or given pre-approval for credit transfer.

* The American Council on Education's College Credit Recommendation Service (ACE Credit®) has evaluated and recommended college credit for 27 of Sophia’s online courses. Many different colleges and universities consider ACE CREDIT recommendations in determining the applicability to their course and degree programs.


Source: Music by Tres Tristes Tangos; "Kolomeika"

Video Transcription

Download PDF

[MUSIC PLAYING] Hello. Welcome to festivals, religious festivals, and what they mean for some of the religions. Generally, festivals function to pass on religious beliefs and structures from one generation to the next. They recreate religious meaning and they provide community cohesion. In this way, participants are given the opportunity to be connected with the sacred.

Within various traditions, festivals may be seasonal, to celebrate harvest or planting season, or the birth of a deity or other important figures. Other times they are annual events that don't have any direct or noticeable link with the seasons. Often the festival will tie into the mythology of the tradition.

In Ancient Roman culture, there were many polytheistic and pagan festivals where nature and the cosmos played a big role. For example, there is the celebration of Saturn, the god and the planet, deity. And this celebration and festival is called Saturnalia, and it honors the deity Saturn, the god of renewal, plenty, and liberation.

A festival maybe observed with acts of worship, offerings today deities, fasting, feasting, vigils, rituals, fairs, charity and other celebrations. Often religious festivals are annual events, marking something that happened in the history of the religion.

In Judaism for example, every year for a week in late March or early April, observant Jews will commemorate the Passover Seder, recognizing the liberation of the Jewish people from Egypt. In the Hebrew Bible in the book of Exodus, it is said that this ritual observance annually must be passed on and shared from one generation to the next.

Participants share in a time of relaxation, drinking special wine, eating matzoh, which is not unleavened bread and it symbolizes the Exodus, or the rapid departure, from captivity in Egypt. They left so quickly that they had no time to wait for their bread to rise.

In Islam, Muslim people celebrate a special holiday called Ramadan. It commemorates the prophet Muhammad's reception of the Koran, and it also honors and acknowledges the one god of the Abrahamic faiths. For one month, practitioners fast, or abstain from food, between the hours of sunrise and sundown, and often it's the appearance of the waxing crescent moon that signifies the beginning of Ramadan.

As one of the five pillars of the faith, most religious Muslims will honor the codes of conduct, like fasting, abstaining from certain intimacies, et cetera, until the end of the lunar month. And at that point, there's a big celebration and festivities. It's called the Eid al-Adha, and this year Ramadan is going to happen in the summer, in August.

And of course the Eastern religions, generally with more gods to honor, have many festivals and celebrations. One important Hindu celebration is called Diwali. It's commonly known as the festival of lights. It's a five day festival which involves the lighting of small clay oil lamps, and it signifies, the light signifies the triumph of good over evil. These lamps are kept on during the night, and one's house is cleaned. The intention is to make the goddess Lakshmi feel welcome.

Each day has a special significance, and honoring this allows the tradition to be integrated with daily life and transmitted from one generation to the next. During the festival of Diwali, all the celebrants wear new clothes and share sweets and snacks with family members and friends.

So now we can review. We started out by recognizing that religious festivals are an opportunity for people to feel connected to the sacred, for religious meaning and significance to be transmitted from one generation to the next. Often religious festivals occur in annual cycles, and we use the example of the Passover Seder in Judaism that usually happens in late March or early April, and it's a commemoration of the Exodus of the Jewish people from captivity in Egypt.

The we recognized in Islam the major celebration and festival of Ramadan every year, which is a celebration and commemoration of the prophet Mohammed's reception of the Koran. And then it ends with a festival of eating and celebration. And then we talked about Diwali, which is a Hindu festival that honors the god Lakshmi . It's a five day festival. It's also called the festival of lights, and the idea is that with the lighting up the oil lamps, there's a recognition of the triumph of good over evil.


Notes on "Festivals"







Source: Music by Tres Tristes Tangos; “Kolomeika”

Terms to Know

A five day Hindu festival, also known as the "festival of lights".


An ancient Roman festival honoring the deity Saturn.