Religious Holidays & Observances
This is an educational resource about the many religious holidays celebrated by the students, faculty, and staff at the University of Memphis. During these days, it is important for those who do not share the same practices to accommodate their colleagues and peers. The below calendar provides a non-exhaustive list of globally recognized religious observances. Please note that Jewish and Islamic observances begin at sundown the evening before the listed date. Additionally, some dates are approximate as many holy days, including Islam and Hindu holidays, are set using the lunar calendar.
Class Attendance Policy
Under UofM Policy AA3021 religious holidays may be an exception to class attendance policies set by the instructor. The policy states,
Students may have extenuating circumstances that make it impossible for them to attend all class sessions. These absences may be an exception to the class attendance policy set by the instructor. They include military orders, court-imposed legal obligations, religious observances, extended illness, participation in university, college or unit-sponsored activities, and obligations to represent the university.
The student should provide a document to the instructor detailing the circumstances for missing the class and date/s on which the class will be missed:
1. During the first two weeks of the semester, but no later than the first day of class for students who have registered for a course prior to the start of the semester, or
2. Immediately after the student knows of the need to miss class because of one of these extenuating circumstances. If a student has documented extenuating circumstances, the instructor has the discretion to determine what course work is available for make-up for credit. If certain work is not available, the student will be held harmless. The instructor does not have the discretion to count the absence against the student.
Responsibility of Students
Absence from classes does not relieve students from responsibility for any part of the course missed during the period of absence. Instructors who feel that the required time away from class may be too much should consult with the student to determine, whether through extra effort and tutoring, the student may be able to achieve the learning outcomes of the class. If not, the instructor should recommend that the student withdraw from the course. If at all possible, the recommendation to withdraw from the class should occur before the end of the add/drop period. Students should consult with their academic advisor as soon as they know that a class must be dropped. Students are not automatically dropped from the class(es) if they do not attend. They must officially drop their class(es) by the published deadline to obtain a “W” grade.
If a holiday you observe is not listed, and you would like it to be, please send the date, holiday name, and associated religion to firstname.lastname@example.org
2023 Religious Holidays
2023 Cultural Observances
Black History Month
Each February, National Black History Month serves as both a celebration and a powerful reminder that Black history is American history, Black culture is American culture, and Black stories are essential to the ongoing story of America — our faults, our struggles, our progress, and our aspirations. Shining a light on Black history today is as important to understanding ourselves and growing stronger as a Nation as it has ever been. That is why it is essential that we take time to celebrate the immeasurable contributions of Black Americans, honor the legacies and achievements of generations past, reckon with centuries of injustice, and confront those injustices that still fester today.
Women’s History Month
Women’s History Month had its origins as a national celebration in 1981 when Congress passed Pub. L. 97-28 which authorized and requested the President to proclaim the week beginning March 7, 1982 as “Women’s History Week.” Throughout the next five years, Congress continued to pass joint resolutions designating a week in March as “Women’s History Week.” In 1987 after being petitioned by the National Women’s History Project, Congress passed Pub. L. 100-9 which designated the month of March 1987 as “Women’s History Month.” Between 1988 and 1994, Congress passed additional resolutions requesting and authorizing the President to proclaim March of each year as Women’s History Month. Since 1995, presidents have issued a series of annual proclamations designating the month of March as “Women’s History Month.” These proclamations celebrate the contributions women have made to the United States and recognize the specific achievements women have made over the course of American history in a variety of fields.
Sexual Assault Awareness Month
The theme of Sexual Assault Awareness Month 2023 is “Drawing Connections: Prevention Demands Equity.” This April's campaign calls on all individuals, communities, organizations, and institutions to change ourselves and the systems surrounding us to build racial equity and respect.
Arab American Heritage Month
During the month of April, the Arab America Foundation formally recognizes the achievements of Arab Americans through the celebration of National Arab American Heritage Month (NAAHM). Across the country, cultural institutions, school districts, municipalities, state legislatures, public servants, and non-profit organizations issue proclamations and engage in special events that celebrate our community’s rich heritage and numerous contributions to society.
Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month
May is Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month – a celebration of Asians and Pacific Islanders in the United States. A rather broad term, Asian/Pacific encompasses all of the Asian continent and the Pacific islands of Melanesia (New Guinea, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji and the Solomon Islands), Micronesia (Marianas, Guam, Wake Island, Palau, Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Nauru and the Federated States of Micronesia) and Polynesia (New Zealand, Hawaiian Islands, Rotuma, Midway Islands, Samoa, American Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Cook Islands, French Polynesia and Easter Island).
Like most commemorative months, Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month originated with Congress. In 1977 Reps. Frank Horton of New York introduced House Joint Resolution 540 to proclaim the first ten days in May as Pacific/Asian American Heritage Week. In the same year, Senator Daniel Inouye introduced a similar resolution, Senate Joint Resolution 72. Neither of these resolutions passed, so in June 1978, Rep. Horton introduced House Joint Resolution 1007. This resolution proposed that the President should “proclaim a week, which is to include the seventh and tenth of the month, during the first ten days in May of 1979 as ‘Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week.’” This joint resolution was passed by the House and then the Senate and was signed by President Jimmy Carter on October 5, 1978 to become Public Law 95-419 (PDF, 158kb). This law amended the original language of the bill and directed the President to issue a proclamation for the “7 day period beginning on May 4, 1979 as ‘Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week.’” During the next decade, presidents passed annual proclamations for Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week until 1990 when Congress passed Public Law 101-283 (PDF, 166kb) which expanded the observance to a month for 1990. Then in 1992, Congress passed Public Law 102-450 (PDF, 285kb) which annually designated May as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month.
The month of May was chosen to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese to the United States on May 7, 1843, and to mark the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869. The majority of the workers who laid the tracks were Chinese immigrants.
Military Appreciation Month
Military Appreciation Month was initially recognized by a resolution in the U.S. Senate in 1999 and traditionally takes place every year throughout the entire month of May, reminding Americans to celebrate this patriotic month that pays tribute to those who have sacrificed so much for our freedom. Memorial Day is observed on the last Monday in May, honoring America’s military service members who lost their lives in service to their country.
LGBTQ+ Pride Month
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) Pride Month is currently celebrated each year in the month of June to honor the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan. The Stonewall Uprising was a tipping point for the Gay Liberation Movement in the United States. In the United States the last Sunday in June was initially celebrated as "Gay Pride Day," but the actual day was flexible. In major cities across the nation the "day" soon grew to encompass a month-long series of events. Today, celebrations include pride parades, picnics, parties, workshops, symposia and concerts, and LGBTQ Pride Month events attract millions of participants around the world. Memorials are held during this month for those members of the community who have been lost to hate crimes or HIV/AIDS. The purpose of the commemorative month is to recognize the impact that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals have had on history locally, nationally, and internationally.
Caribbean-American Heritage Month
America’s diversity is and always has been the defining strength of our Nation — in every generation, our society, spirit, and shared ambitions have been refreshed by wave after wave of immigrants seeking out their American dream. Throughout our history, Caribbean Americans have brought vibrant cultures, languages, traditions, and values that strengthen our country and add new chapters to our common story. In recognition of Caribbean Americans’ countless gifts and contributions to our Nation, we celebrate National Caribbean-American Heritage Month.
Suicide Prevention Awareness Month (SPAM)
September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month —a time to raise awareness of this stigmatized, and often taboo, topic. We use this month to shift public perception, spread hope and share vital information to people affected by suicide. Our goal is ensuring that individuals, friends and families have access to the resources they need to discuss suicide prevention and to seek help.
Hispanic Heritage Month
September 15 – October 15
Each year, Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15, by celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.
The observation started in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson and was expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to cover a 30-day period starting on September 15 and ending on October 15. It was enacted into law on August 17, 1988, on the approval of Public Law 100-402.
The day of September 15 is significant because it is the anniversary of independence for Latin American countries Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on September 16 and September18, respectively. Also, Columbus Day or Día de la Raza, which is October 12, falls within this 30 day period.
LGBTQ History Month
In 1994, a coalition of education-based organizations in the United States designated October as LGBT History Month. In 1995, a resolution passed by the General Assembly of the National Education Association included LGBT History Month within a list of commemorative months. National Coming Out Day (October 11), as well as the first "March on Washington" in 1979, are commemorated in the LGBTQ community during LGBT History Month.
National Disability Employment Awareness Month
In October, Americans observe National Disability Employment Awareness Month by paying tribute to the accomplishments of the men and women with disabilities whose work helps keep the nation’s economy strong and by reaffirming their commitment to ensure equal opportunity for all citizens.
This effort to educate the public about the issues related to disability and employment began in 1945, when Congress enacted Public Law 176, declaring the first week of October each year as National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week. In 1962, the word “physically” was removed to acknowledge the employment needs and contributions of individuals with all types of disabilities. Some 25 years later, Congress expanded the week to a month and changed the name to National Disability Employment Awareness Month.
Native American Heritage Month
November is Native American Heritage Month, or as it is commonly referred to, American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month.
The month is a time to celebrate rich and diverse cultures, traditions, and histories and to acknowledge the important contributions of Native people. Heritage Month is also an opportune time to educate the general public about tribes, to raise a general awareness about the unique challenges Native people have faced both historically and in the present, and the ways in which tribal citizens have worked to conquer these challenges.