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Traditions and Religious Observances

The past month has been full of uncertainty and chaos due to the Covid-19 crises,. It seems that all of us are struggling in one way of another, whether it’s dealing with family issues, unfamiliar pedagogies, student anxiety, or lost/diminished employment. It is truly like nothing most of us have seen if our lifetime. Unfortunately, those who are marginalized in our communities suffer the most during crises like these. WKU’s diversity, equity, and inclusion team is continuing our work on building a campus environment that provides everyone an equal opportunity to succeed, especially in these challenging times.

April, in many cultures and faiths, is a time of renewal and rebirth; we could all use some good vibes right now, right? Needless to say, there are many cultural and religious observations this month. This is, by no means, an exhaustive list of April happenings but these are the most commonly celebrated in our communities. Even though we are sheltering in place, some of this month’s observances will require time off from school and work.

Please be kind to one another, help as you can, and remember “we will get through this together;” that is the true Spirit of WKU.


Sunday, April 5: Palm/Passion Sunday (Christian): Palm Sunday is a “moveable feast” (not the same date every year) that falls one week before Easter Sunday. Christian’s celebrate the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem the week before his death. It is also called Passion Sunday in some churches (because it’s the fifth Sunday of Lent – yes, it’s Wikipedia) and marks the beginning of Holy week. For more information about Palm/Passion Sunday, click here.


Wed-Thurs, April 8-16: Passover/Pesach (Jewish): The eight-day festival of Passover is celebrated in early spring, from the 15th through the 22nd of the Hebrew month of Nisan (that’s April 8 - April 16, 2020 in the U.S. calendar. Passover (Pesach) commemorates the emancipation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt ((Exodus 1:8-10). Pesach is observed by avoiding leaven (no yeasty breads, y’all) and highlighted by the Seder meals that include four cups of wine, eating matzah and bitter herbs, and retelling the story of the Exodus.

Some important notes about Passover:

  • April 9 & 10 and 15 & 16 are non-work days, which means Jewish students will be absent from class and faculty & staff should be excused from work – no Zooms that day!
    • Wed, April 8: First Passover Seder (Begins in the evening)
    • Thurs, April 9: Second Passover Seder (Begins in the evening)

For more information about Passover, click here.


Thursday, April 9: Maundy/Holy Thursday (Christian): Maundy Thursday (or Holy Thursday) is the Thursday before Easter. Most Christian churches in mainline denominations, and some of the more fundamental churches, commemorate Maundy Thursday in some way, but the types of services vary greatly. The word “Maundy” comes indirectly from the Latin “mandatum,” which means “commandment.” It refers to when Jesus, in the Upper Room during the Last Super, said to the disciples: “A new commandment I give you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” (John 13:34, Revised Standard Version). Some churches focus on the ancient celebration of Holy Communion or the Eucharist commemorating the Last Super; some observe variations of the ancient service of Tenebrae, the Latin word for candles; and, in recent years, many have started including the “foot-washing” as part of Maundy/Holy Thursday (John’s Gospel, 13:1-20). For more information on Maundy/Holy Thursday, click here.


Friday, April 10: Good Friday (Christian): On Good Friday, Christians remember the day Jesus willingly suffered and died by crucifixion as the ultimate sacrifice for the sins of humanity (1 John 1:10). It is followed by Easter Sunday, the celebration of the day Jesus was raised from the dead, heralding his victory over sin and death and pointing ahead to a future resurrection for all who are united to him by faith (Romans 6:5). Some students, staff, and faculty may wish to attend services that day (some are at noon and others are at 3pm); please excuse them. For more information about why it’s call Good Friday, click here.


Sunday April 12: Easter (Western Christian): Easter Sunday ends the “period of fasting called Lent.” Lent actually begins on Ash Wednesday (the day after Fat Tuesday if you remember back to February) and ends on Good Friday, the day of Jesus' crucifixion. The 40 day Lenten period was established sometime between the second century (St. Irenaeus; First Ecumenical Council in 325 AD) and the sixth century (Pope Gregory 1). It is believed that the idea for Lent used the 40-day patterns of Moses on Mount Sinai and then Jesus' time in the wilderness. For more information about the relationship between Lent and Easter, click here.

“Easter Sunday is one of the most festive events among Christians worldwide. It commemorates Jesus Christ’s resurrection from death, as written in the Christian bible. Many Christians worldwide celebrate Easter with special church services, music, candlelight, flowers and the ringing of church bells. Easter processions are held in some countries such as the Philippines and Spain. Many Christians view Easter as the greatest feast of the Church year. It is a day of joy and celebration to commemorate that Jesus Christ is risen, according to Christian belief” (https://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/common/easter-sunday).


Sunday, April 19: Orthodox Easter (Greek & Russian Orthodox Christian): If any of you have Greek or Russian family and/or friends in your life, you know Easter is the biggest holiday of the year for them. In the eyes of the Orthodox Church, it is an honor to commemorate Jesus’ death on the cross for the sins of all humankind. While theologically, Easter is the same for all Christian denominations, Orthodox Easter falls on a different date because they use the Julian calendar for calculations. So, this is sort of complicated BUT, here’s a very, short popular explanation, which is often debated among scholars. The Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council in 325 AD (see above) came up with a uniform way of setting the date. They decided Easter should be celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the vernal equinox but always after Passover. In order to ensure there was no confusion as to when the vernal equinox occurred, the date of the vernal equinox was set to be March 21 (April 3 on the Julian Calendar). The first full moon after the equinox this year falls on Friday, April 17. It’s rare, but sometimes Eastern and Western Easter fall on the same date - this will happen again in the year 2025. For more information on Orthodox Easter, click here.


Mon-Tues, April 20-21, Yom Hashoah (Jewish: Begins in the evening): The full name of the day commemorating the victims of the Holocaust is “Yom Hashoah Ve-Hagevurah“– or “Day of (Remembrance of) the Holocaust and the Heroism.” It falls on the 27th day in the month of Nisan — a week after the seventh day of Passover and a week before Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day for Israel’s fallen soldiers). The date was selected by the Israeli Parliament on April 12, 1951 and became formally enacted law on August 19, 1953. Although the date was established in Israel, it has become a day commemorated by Jewish communities and individuals worldwide. For more information, click here.


Friday, April 24: Ramadan (begins) (Islam: Ends Sat, May 23): Ramadan is a holy month of fasting, introspection, and prayer for Muslims, the followers of Islam. It is celebrated during the month when 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 sunrise to sunset. In addition, it is expected that followers avoid impure thoughts and bad behavior. Muslims break their daily fasts by sharing meals with family and friends after sunset. The end of Ramadan is celebrated with a three-day festival known as Eid al-Fitr, one of Islam’s major holidays. Ramadan always falls on the ninth month Islamic calendar. Ramadan 2020 begins at sunset on Thursday, April 23, and ends on Saturday, May 23. For more information about Ramadan, click here.


Monday, April 20: First Day of Ridvan (Bahá’í: Begins in the evening of April 20 and ends Sat, May 2): So, this is the first time a Bahá’í observance appears but we do have a few folks who practice and historically, WKU has had a registered Bahá’í student group. WhileBahá’í  might be a lesser known faith here in Bowling Green, it’s estimated that six million follows in over 235 countries practice the faith. In 2019, Bahá’í celebrated the 200thanniversary of the birth of the Bab, a Messenger of God who announced in 1844 that humanity was entering a new era. The Bab prepared people to receive new teachings from God through which the whole world could unite to create justice and lasting peace. The Bab paved the way for Baha’u’llah, the Divine Educator for this age. Baha’u’llah’s teachings of unity and spiritual renewal are the basis of the Baha’i Faith.

The Baháʼí Faith has eleven holy days and nine of these are days in which work and attendance at school is not permitted. Ridvan, meaning “paradise,” is the annual Bahá’í festival marking the anniversary of the days Baha'u'llah spent along the River Tigris in Baghdad. It is observed from sunset April 20 to sunset May 2 this year. The first, ninth, and twelfth days of Ridvan are major holy days (work and school should be suspended) and are celebrated by gatherings with food and song. For more information about Ridvan and Bahá’í  click here.

Again, please be kind to one another, stay at home, and wash your hands!





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 Last Modified 4/9/20