General Knowledge


last update: 20 June 2020


Many trivia topics are specific, e.g.
Greek gods or US national parks, and each will find its place on a specific webpage (eventually…).

This webpage is dedicated to those trivia topics that don't easily fall into a well defined subject domain. As examples, the first topic is about calendars and second about names of the days and months.

Let's kick-off with
a few typical questions with their answers:-
How many days currently separate the Gregorian Calendar and the 'old' or unrevised Julian Calendar? Answer - it's currently 13 days
What kind of calendar is used by the Jewish faith? Answer - They use the Hebrew calendar which is a so-called lunisolar calendar, where dates indicate both the lunar phase and the time of the solar year. The Hebrew lunar year is about eleven days shorter that the solar year and uses the 19-year Metonic cycle to bring it into line with the solar year. This means adding an intercalary month every two or three years, for a total of seven times per 19 year period. In the Hebrew calendar the years are counted from the creation of the world (Anno Mundi) so the year 2020 is AM 5780.
What do Christians commemorate on Maundy Thursday? Answer - Maundy Thursday is part of the Christian celebration of Easter, and marks the Washing of the Feet (Maundy) and the Last Supper.
Which country has the most official public holidays? Answer - The answer that often appears on the Web is India with 21 days. However Public Holidays in India mentions that they only have three national holidays, to which are added a multitude of regional and local festivals. Others answers on the Web include Cambodia with 28 days, although Public Holidays in Cambodia only list a possible 22 days. Sri Lanka is mentioned on the web as having 25 holidays, but Public Holidays in Sri Lanka lists 26 days.
Which country has the least number of official public holidays? Answer - The answer that often appears on the Web is Mexico with 6 days. However Public Holidays in Mexico mentions 7 statutory public holidays, and additional civil holidays and festivals. You also often see on the Web that Norway only has 2 paid public holidays, but Public Holidays in Norway list a total 12 holidays. There is even the mention that the US has no compulsory paid holidays at all, yet there is also a mention for the United Kingdom, which, with 8 public holidays, has the lowest number of national public holidays in the the G20.
What is the importance of the month of Ramadan? Answer - Ramadan, a month of fasting, prayer and interior reflection, is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, and is considered mandatory as a religious duty commanded by Allah.
What is Holi? Answer - Holi is a popular Hindu festival, also called the 'festival of spring' or the 'festival of colour', and it signifies the victors of good over evil.
What does Passover celebrate in the Jewish faith, and when? Answer - Passover commemorates The Exodus (departure of the Israelites from Egypt), and is celebrated from in spring, from the 15th to the 21st of Nisan.
The 'Four Noble Truths' is a basic belief of which religion? Answer - The Four Noble Truths were the first teaching of Buddha, and are some of the most important teachings in Buddhism.
What is Yom Kippur? Answer - Yom Kippur is the 'Day of Atonement', the holiest day in Judaism. It is a holy day of fasting and prayer, and it falls in the Autumn on the 10th day of Tishrei.
Saint Patrick's Day commemorates what moment in his life? Answer - the 17 March commemorates the death of Saint Patrick.
What is the name of the great Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, and when does it occur? Answer - The Hajj occurs between the eighth and thirteenth day of Dhu al-Hijjah, the twelfth and last lunar month on the Islamic calendar.
Which Christian event is celebrated on 2 February? Answer - Candlemas, commemorating the presentation of Jesus at the Temple.
On what day do Sikh's celebrate New Year, and what is it called? Answer - Vaisakhi, usually celebrated on the 13 or 14 April is the Sikh New Year festival. It also celebrates the year 1699, when Sikhism was born as a collective faith.
What event originated as the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia? Answer - It is one of the most ancient Roman holidays, and its origins are obscure. However, it is often associated with Valentine's Day. It would appear that Lupercalia was also associated with dies Februatus, after an instrument of purification called februa, which gave is Februarius (February).
What Chinese holiday celebrates the life of a famous Chinese scholar? Answer - The Dragon Boat Festival, which varies from year to year but is always held in May or June, is said to commemorate the death of the poet Qu Yuan (ca. 340-278 BC).
When do Chinese celebrate the New Year? Answer - The Chinese New Year usually fall between 21 January and 20 February, and is based upon the lunar calendar. The first day starts with the New Moon, and the celebrations finished with the Full Moon 15 days later.
Muslims mark the end of Ramadan with which festival? Answer - Ramadan is a month of daily fasting during dawn-to-sunset that cumulates in Eid al-Fitr. Fasting on this day is forbidden, and there is an obligation to offer money to the poor and needy before performing a special prayer.
What British event is named after a man who tried to blow up a government building? Answer - Guy Fawkes (1570-1606) was a member of a group of English Catholics who were involved in the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605. Fawkes was in charge of a charge of gunpowder placed under the House of Lords, and was discovered in the early hours of the 5 November 1605. He was condemned to be hanged, drawn and quartered, but he fell from the scaffold and broke his neck.
What is the celebration called Diwali? Answer - Diwali is the Hindu 'Festival of Lights', celebrated over 5 days sometime between mid-October and mid-November. Diwali celebrates the victory of light over darkness (good over evil).
How many days after Easter Sunday do Christians celebrate Pentecost? Answer - 49 days
Is Xmas a recently introduced abbreviation? Answer - No, as far back as 1100 AD 'Christianity' was spelt 'Xianity', because or Chi is the first letter of the 'Christ' in Greek. And in 1551 'Xtemmas' was shorten to 'Xmas'.
What is the name of the Hindu 'Festival of Light'? Answer - Diwali
What is the name of the Jewish 'Festival of Light'? Answer - Hanukkah is usually celebrated sometime in December and last 7 days. The most well-known symbol of this celebration is the menorah, the seven-lamp candelabra (where one candle is lit every day).
Do Buddhists celebrate the birthdays of religious figures? Answer - Whilst Christianity is considered monotheistic, Buddhism is non-theistic and does not believe in a God or gods. Wikipedia lists Buddhist Holidays, and the important moments Buddha's life are celebrated, including his birthday.
What is the significance of the Islamic New Year? Answer - After Ramadan, the Islamic New Year is the second most important month in the Islamic calendar. The Islamic lunar year is 11 or 12 days shorter than the solar Gregorian year, and so the Islamic New Year does not occur on the same day of the Gregorian calendar. So the Islamic New Year starts on the first day of the month of Muharram, which varies from year to year, from late July to mid September. Muharram is one of the four sacred months where warfare is forbidden, and it is considered a month of remembrance and meditation. In Shia Islam they begin on the first night of Muharram to mourn the death of the grandson of Muhammad, Hussein ibn Ali (the period of mourning lasts 10 nights).
Who introduced the Christmas tree? Answer - The tree was significant in both early civilisations and early mythologies, but what we have today originated during the Renaissance in early modern Germany. However, it would appear to have 'taken off' when Prince Albert introduced the Christmas tree to his new wife Queen Victoria.

Calendars


Gregorian calendar

Julian calendar


Christian calendar

Most of the world's Christians mark time on the solar Gregorian calendar, a late medieval correction of the much-older Julian calendar. Julius Caesar had initiated the calendar named after him in 46 b.c.e., but it was based on some miscalculations. In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII shortened the Julian year by ten days and added a day to February every fourth or "leap" year. Some Eastern Christian churches still use the Julian calendar, so that their major feasts fall just less than two weeks later than those of the Western churches. Until the Gregorian reform, Christians considered March 25 the beginning of the year, since that was judged to be the day on which Gabriel announced to Mary that she would give birth to Jesus. March 25, which had in ancient times been mistakenly calculated as the spring equinox, the first day of spring, remains the Feast of the Annunciation.
For centuries Christians continued to observe the timing of traditional Jewish feasts, which were movable within limits of specific agricultural seasons (such as planting and harvest times). Using the Jewish seven-day week, Christians gradually added fixed feasts, such as those of saints and martyrs. The custom of designating Sunday as a day of religious observance began during the first generation after Jesus' death and Emperor Constantine decreed it a day of rest in 321. Wednesdays and Fridays had anciently been days of fasting, a practice now surviving largely on the first day of Lent, Good Friday, and other Fridays during Lent. For most Christians the year consists of three liturgical seasons, Advent and Christmastide, Lent and an Eastertide that ends with Pentecost Sunday, and "Ordinary" time until the first Sunday of the following Advent. Some Christians in Egypt and Ethiopia still use the solar Coptic calendar, based on the ancient Egyptian reckoning. Recent recalculations suggest that Jesus was actually born closer to 4 b.c.e. than to the year 1.

Jewish calendar

The Jewish calendar is lunisolar--that is, it is regulated by the positions of both the moon and the sun. There are twelve alternating lunar months of twenty-nine and thirty days each. The year totals 353, 354, or 355 days. Leap years are introduced to conform to the solar year of 365.25 days. Leap years contain either 383, 384, or 385 days and occur seven times in every nineteen-year period. This is called the Metonic cycle. The first month of the year is that in which the Exodus began. But tradition dictates that certain feasts must occur during certain seasons, so the calendar has to be adjusted every so often to prevent the lunar months from straying too far from the agricultural, or solar, cycle. To make it work, an extra month, called Adar Sheni (Second Adar), is added during seven out of every nineteen years. Thus, the number of days in a given year is not fixed and may vary from 353 to 385 days, and the first day of the month can fall on any day of the week and will vary from year to year. The Jewish lunar months are called Tishri (September/October), Cheshvan (October/November), Kislev (November/December), Tevet (December/January), Shevat (January/February), Adar (February/March), Adar Sheni (Second Adar, inserted only in "leap years"), Nisan (March/April), Iyyar (April/May), Sivan (May/June), Tammuz (June/July), Av (July/August), and Elul (August/September). With the leap year provision, the lunar months slide back or forward but remain within the solar months indicated in parentheses.

Muslin calendar

Muslims follow a lunar calendar whose twelve months add up to 354 days. In a cycle of thirty lunar years, eleven are leap years, with one day added to the last month. During Muhammad's time the lunar months were associated with seasons (Ramadan means "extreme heat," Rabi' "rainy season," and Jumada "dry season," for example). As in the Jewish calendar, the pre-Islamic year maintained its connection with agricultural cycles and seasons by the intercalation of a whole month in certain years. Since the practice of intercalation ended around Muhammad's time, the Islamic lunar year rotates backward eleven days each year in relation to the Gregorian solar year. If Ramadan, for example, begins on January 12 this year, next year it will begin on January 1, and so on. Certain practical results of this backward rotation are worth noting because of the way timing can affect religious practice. When Ramadan (the ninth month) occurs in the dead of winter, when days are shortest, the fast from sunrise to sunset is less arduous than when Ramadan falls during the height of summer. Pilgrimage to Mecca can also be more strenuous when the season of Hajj (in the twelfth month) occurs during the hottest season. Muslims the world over therefore must learn to work with two different systems of marking special times. Muslims begin their count of years with the Hijra of 622. Approximately every thirty-three years the beginnings of the Islamic lunar and Gregorian solar years roughly coincide.

Hindu calendar

Combining lunar months with seasons of the solar year, the Hindu calendar functions somewhat like the Jewish. About every three years it inserts an extra month after a month with two new moons. Hindu lunar months vary from twenty-nine to thirty-two days. The names of the months, with the roughly corresponding Gregorian months in parentheses, are as follows: Chaitra (March/April), Vaishakha (April/May), Jyaistha (May/June), Asadhe (June/July), Shravana (July/August), Bhadrapada (August/September), Ashvina (September/October), Karttika (October/November), Margasivsa (November/December), Pansa (December/January), Magha (January/February), and Phalguna (February/March). Leap months take the name of the month preceding them.

For ritual purposes, each month is divided into its dark and light halves, with associated celebrations, and the moment of the full moon is a time of celebration each month. And some festivals and observances fall each year on the same solar date. Each year is likened to a day in the life of the deities, with the solar solstices symbolizing sunrise and sundown. In addition to the complexity introduced by the blending of solar and lunar reckonings, systems vary still further from region to region in India. Historically, the greater Hindu religious calendar has been so full that virtually every day some Hindu community has celebrated some feast somewhere in the subcontinent. Hinduism is not unlike Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions in that respect, except that the majority of the Christian religious feasts are those of saints, rather than of the deity as such. All of this makes for an immensely rich sense of the intersection of sacred times and places. Every day is appropriate for religious observance, and no one day of the week is set aside as an especially sacred time.

Buddhist calendar

Since Buddhism has long been identified with so many different cultural settings, there is some variation in the ways Buddhists keep track of sacred times. The basic religious calendar remains tied, at least nominally, to the ancient Hindu combination of lunar and solar reckoning, but many Buddhists now observe some festivities on fixed dates. The earliest Buddhists apparently did not concern themselves with marking special occurrences on their calendar. But within a generation or so, India's growing and spreading Buddhist communities began to incorporate religious social occasions into ordinary life. As Buddhist communities arose outside of India they naturally tended to blend religious observances imported by Buddhist missionaries with the indigenous festivities of the land. In most places where Buddhism is an important presence today, the reckoning of years begins with the date of the Buddha's entry into nirvana (which coincided with his death). In any given year, Buddhists observe various festal occasions. Some commemorate major events in the life of the Buddha, others celebrate different institutional features of the tradition, others are tied to seasonal festivities, and still others are linked to events only in certain countries.

Confucians

Whether Daoist, CCT, Buddhist, or Confucian, all Chinese have historically acknowledged the same overall reckoning of time. Official Confucian and CIT events were traditionally set by a Board of Astrology and promulgated by a Ministry of Rites. In overall structure, the Chinese lunar calendar consists of twelve months of twenty-nine or thirty days, since the time between new moons is about twenty-nine and a half days. The lunar year dovetails with the solar, with the intercalation of an extra month approximately every six years or when five additional days per year total thirty. Reckoning began around 2637 b.c.e., so that the year 2000 marked the year 4637. Each of the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac is associated with a particular quality or event and gives its name to every twelfth year, beginning with the Rat (industry and prosperity) and proceeding in order through Ox (spring planting), Tiger (valor), Hare (longevity), Dragon (power and good fortune), Snake (cunning), Horse (perseverance), Sheep (filial piety) or Goat, Monkey (health), Rooster (protection), Dog (fidelity), and Pig (home and family). The year 2000 was the Year of the Dragon, 2001 that of the Snake, 2002 that of the Horse, and so on. Five full cycles, each named after one of the five elements (wood, fire, earth, metal and water) equals sixty years, an important interval for ritual purposes. Major annual markers are the winter (maximum Yin) and summer (maximum Yang) solstices and vernal and autumnal equinoxes when Yin and Yang are in balance. During each month, the most important times are the moments of new and full moon.

Shinto

Shinto reckoning of ritual time has been much influenced by Chinese traditions. As early as 675 c.e., religious Daoism had made a significant impact on the Japanese imperial court, which formally adopted many Daoist practices. Most importantly, the court set up a bureau of divination, called the Onmyoryo ("Office of Yin-Yang"), based on Daoist principles. One of the Onmyoryo's chief functions was to establish a liturgical calendar that patterned earthly life on the rhythms of the cosmos. This lunar calendar retains all the main features of its Chinese model, including the cycles of sixty years based on the combinations of twelve "branches" and ten "stems" (see the sections on Daoism and Confucianism). The Japanese call their Chinese version of the lunar calendar Kyureki, as distinct from the modern solar calendar adopted in 1872, the Shinreki. An early formal cycle of annual observance, called the nenchu gyoji, literally "year-round-discipline-rituals," developed as early as the tenth century c.e. Imperial authorities promulgated it in a vast historical record called the Engi-shiki ("Institutes of the Engi Era," 901-923 c.e.), an essential source of information about Shinto ritual in general. Japan's lunar calendar needs to tuck in an extra month every three years or so.

Prior to the nineteenth century, many Shinto shrines maintained their own calendars of events, including uniquely regional and local festivities. Today some major events still take place according to various ways of adapting the lunar calendar to fit the solar. For example, some festivals now occur on the same numbered day within the same numbered month, but transferred to the solar reckoning. In other words, a festival that fell on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month now falls on July 7. Some festivals are now dated by keeping the day date but adding a solar month, so that a celebration once held on the seventh day of the seventh month now occurs on August 7. Finally, and more rarely, a few days retain their lunar dating completely, so that they rotate backward against the solar year. From the solar point of view, therefore, these are moveable feasts. Since the late nineteenth century, the timing of the major festivals has been coordinated so that all the larger shrines observe them at the same time. But there are still many distinctive local and regional festivities attached to individual shrines, such as the rituals dedicated to the patron deities of particular places. In addition to the liturgical calendar, an important related feature is the Japanese custom of dividing history according to imperial reigns or epochs. Emperor Hirohito died in 1989, ending the Showa era, and his son Akihito's accession inaugurated the Heisei epoch.


Names of the Days of the Week


Wikipedia has a whole webpage dedicated to the
Names of the Days of the Week, so just summarising:-
The seven-day week first dates from the
Romans, with an earliest reference 6 February, AD 60, and was widely used by the 4th C AD.

Monday, as an international standard, is considered the first day of the week. The word derives from the Old English Mōnandæg and the Middle English Monenday, originally translated from the Latin name diēs Lūnae 'Day of the Moon'.

Tuesday in Old English was Tīwesdæg and the Middle English Tewesday, meaning "Tiw's day". Tiw (Norse Týr) was a one-handed god associated with single combat and pledges in Norse mythology. The name of the day is also related to the Latin name diēs Mārtis, 'Day of Mars'.

Wednesday in Old English was Wōdnesdæg and the Middle English Wednesdei, meaning the day of the Germanic god Woden (known as Óðinn among the North Germanic peoples), and a prominent god of the Anglo-Saxons (and other Germanic peoples) in England until about the 7th C. It is also vaguely related to the Latin counterpart diēs Mercuriī, 'Day of Mercury'.

Thursday in Old English was Þūnresdæg and the Middle English Thuresday, meaning 'Þunor's day'. Þunor means thunder or its personification, the Norse god known in Modern English as Thor. Thor's day corresponds to Latin diēs Iovis, 'Day of Jupiter'.

Friday in Old English was Frīgedæg, meaning the day of the Anglo-Saxon goddess Fríge. It is based on the Latin diēs Veneris, 'Day of Venus'.

Saturday is named after the Roman god Saturn associated with the Titan Cronus, father of Zeus and many Olympians. Its original Anglo-Saxon rendering was Sæturnesdæg. In Latin, it was diēs Saturnī, 'Day of Saturn'.

Sunday in Old English was Sunnandæg, meaning 'Sun's Day'. This is a translation of the Latin phrase diēs Sōlis. English, like most of the Germanic languages, preserves the day's association with the Sun. Many other European languages, including all of the Romance languages, have changed its name to the equivalent of "the Lord's Day" (based on Ecclesiastical Latin diēs Dominica).

English - Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Italian - Lunedì Martedì Mercoledì Giovedì Venerdì Sabato Domenica
Spanish - Lunes Martes Miércoles Jueves Viernes Sábado Domingo
French - Lundi Mardi Mercredi Jeudi Vendredi Samedi Dimanche
German - Montag Dienstag Mittwoch Donnerstag Freitag Samstag Sonntag

Names of the Months



January

February

March

April

May

June

July

August

September

October

November

December

Major Religious Festivals


Western Christian Festivals and Holy Days


Advent Sunday is the start of the Christian year, and is the fourth Sunday before Christmas (so between 27 November and 3 December). Advent means 'coming' and the Advent season prepares for the coming of Jesus at Christmas. Advent is often associated with the colour violet for the first candle and for vestments, etc.

Christmas Day is on the 25 December and is when Western Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus. The nativity is described in the New Testament Gospels of Matthew and Luke. The date of the 25 December was set by Pope Julius I (?-352 AD).
The 26 December is called Saint Stephen's Day, commemorating the first Christian martyr Saint Stephen (ca. 5-37 AD).

Epiphany, meaning 'to show or manifest', is on 6 January and marks the end of the '12 days of Christmas'. It marks the revelation of God incarnate as Jesus, and is also celebrated by the visit of the Magi bring three gifts.

7 January is celebrated as the birth of Jesus for Eastern Orthodox Christians.

Shrove Tuesday, the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, is the day of the ritual burning of the previous year's Holy Week palms. It is also called 'Pancake Day', because pancakes were a way to use up rich foods such as eggs, milk, and sugar, before fasting over Lent (when you are supposed to eat only simple foods). Shrove Tuesday is also known as Mardi Gras (French for 'fat Tuesday') due to the practice of eating rich, fatty foods before the fasting season starts on Ash Wednesday. Shrove Tuesday is always 47 days before Easter Sunday.

Lent in the Western Churches starts on 'Ash Wednesday', the 7th Wednesday before Easter Day. This is 40 days before Easter Day, not including Sundays (or exactly a total of 46 days before Easter Sunday).
Eastern Churches include the Sunday and start Lent on the Monday of the 7th week before Easter, but end it on the Friday 9 days before Easter.

Mothering Sunday is the 4th Sunday in Lent. Once it meant to visit a persons' 'mother' church, and honour mothers of children. In the UK it's increasingly being called Mother's Day, but they retain the same date. The US version, invented in the 20th C, is not directly related to the religious festival. Many, many countries now celebrate Mother's Day on the 2nd Sunday in May, or on the Spring equinox (21 March), or on International Women's Day (8 March).

Holy Week is the week immediately before Easter.

Palm Sunday falls on the Sunday before Easter, and commemorates Jesus's triumphal entry into Jerusalem.

Good Friday (good meant pious or holy) commemorates the death of Jesus by crucifixion and Calvary (Golgotha), and is called 'good' to represent the giving of Jesus's life to heal the world. Coincides with the Jewish Passover. It is defined as the preceding Easter Sunday.

Easter Sunday commemorates the resurrection of Jesus. The date of Easter changes every year, but always occurs between 22 March and 25 April (according to the Gregorian calendar, the one used by most of the world). Easter is always on the first Sunday after the Paschal Full Moon, which is the first full Moon occurring after the vernal equinox (which signals spring). The vernal equinox can occur any time between 19 March and 21 March, and is when there is almost an equal amount of daylight and night across most latitudes on Earth. What this means is that the Earth's equator passes through the centre of the Sun, or the visible Sun is directly above the equator. This also means that the Sun rises due East and sets due West. The Paschal Full Moon is defined as the 14th day of the lunar month.

Ascension Day marks the ascension of Jesus to heaven and is celebrated 40 days after Easter Sunday (it always falls on a Thursday.

Pentecost celebrates the gift of the Holy Spirit, and falls on the Sunday 50 days after Easter Sunday. It is also often called Whitsun or Whit Sunday. Whit Monday (Pentecost Monday) is the day after Pentecost.

All Saints' Day is the 1 November and gives thanks to all known and unknown saints.


Eastern Orthodox Liturgical Calendar


This calendar of religious festivals and holy days of the
Orthodox Church and can follow either a 'old' Julian Calendar or the 'new' Revised Julian Calendar. For those who follow the Revised Julian Calendar the dates correspond exactly to the same dates on the Gregorian Calendar. For those who follow the 'old' Julian Calendar there is a 13 day difference, e.g. Christmas Day (25 December) falls on the 7 January, i.e. following the Gregorian Calendar you are on the 7 January, but someone following the 'old' Julian Calendar would consider that day the 25 December, and would be celebrating Christmas Day.
The Orthodox
liturgical year begins on 1 September, and the dates below correspond to the Gregorian Calendar, i.e. 13 days different from the 'old' Julian Calendar.

Firstly, below the 12 Great Feasts of the
Orthodox Church:-
The
Nativity of the Theotokos (Virgin Mary) - 21 September
The
Elevation of the Holy Cross - 27 September (is a strict fast day and celebrated the discover of the Holy Cross in 325 AD)
The
Presentation of the Theotokos (Virgin Mary) - 4 December (celebrates the presentation of Mary as a child to the Temple in Jerusalem and her consecration to God)
The
Nativity of the Lord - 7 January (Christmas and the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem)
The
Theophany (Epiphany) of the Lord - 19 January (12 days after Christmas this is the celebration of the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River, and not the visit of the Magi)
The
Presentation of the Lord - 15 February (presentation of Jesus at the Temple in Jerusalem for his induction into Judaism)
The
Annunciation - 7 April (the announcement by the Archangel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary)
The
Transfiguration - 19 August (the moment when Jesus is transfigured, a moment of divine radiance)
The
Dormition (Falling Asleep) of the Theotokos (Virgin Mary) - 28 August (death of Mary)
The
Entry into Jerusalem, the Ascension of Christ, and Pentecost are the other three great feast days.

In addition the
Orthodox Church has another five important feast days:-
The
Circumcision of Christ - 14 January (took place 8 days after his birth)
The
Nativity of Saint John the Baptist - 7 July
The
Feast of Saints Peter and Paul - 12 July
The
Beheading of John the Forerunner (the Baptist) - 29 August (is a strict fast day)
The
Intercession of the Theotokos (Virgin Mary) - 14 October (celebrates the protection of the faithful by the Virgin Mary).

Then there are movable dates which focus on
Paschal Cycle, and in addition there a whole series of other Eastern Christian Observances that also move depending upon celebration of the Resurrection and the Agape Vespers on Easter Sunday.
Since the
First Council of Nicea (325 AD) Easter is defined as the first Sunday that occurs after the first full moon, which follows the vernal equinox. The vernal equinox (from aequus nox meaning equal-night) is defined to always fall on 21 March. In order to conserve the sequence of events leading up to the Crucifixion of Christ and his Resurrection, it was decided that Easter must be celebrated after the Jewish Passover. However, with the Great Schism of 1054 the Roman Empire was divided into Eastern and Western Empires, and into the Catholic Church and Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church held to the formula of the First Council of Nicea and also followed the Julian Calendar. However, the Catholic Church switched from the Julian Calendar to the Gregorian Calendar in 1582, and in addition it dropped the requirement to sequence Easter to always follow the Jewish Passover. The result is that the two churches usually celebrate the Easter on two different days. So the formula "the first Sunday after the full moon on or after the vernal equinox" is the same for both churches, but they base the dates on different calendars. Easter in the Orthodox Church falls between 4 April and 8 May, and in the Catholic Church between 22 March and 25 April, but occasionally the dates align and Easter is then celebrated simultaneously.
The
Orthodox Church has a very extensive series of moveable feasts built around Easter (Pascha), a few of which are:-

The
Pre-Lenten Season (Shrovetide) started on the 11th Sunday before Pascha and concludes on the 7th Sunday before Pascha.
The
Last Judgement is on the 8th Sunday before Pascha (65 days) and also called Meat-Fare Sunday because it the last day when meat can be eaten.
The 7th Sunday before
Pascha is called the Sunday of Forgiveness (Maslenitsa or Cheesefare Week) and is the last day eggs and dairy products can be eaten (49 days before Pascha). The tradition is to use up eggs, milk and butter to make pancakes or blini.

The
Great Lent starts 48 days before Pascha, last 40 days, and finishes 8 days before Resurrection Sunday (Easter Sunday).
It started with
Cleaning Monday (also called Ash Monday as compared with Ash Wednesday when Western Churches begin Lent).
On the 2nd Sunday before
Pascha (14 days before Easter Sunday) they celebrate Saint Mary of Egypt (ca. 344-421 AD), patron saint of penitents.

The
Holy Week starts with Lazarus Saturday (8 days before Pascha), is a day of joy with the Raising of Lazarus, were Jesus performs a miracle by raising Lazarus from the dead four days after his entombment.
Then we have
Palm Sunday (7 days before Pascha) which commemorates Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem.
On the
Maundy Thursday (3 days before Pascha) we have the washing of the disciples' feet, the institution of the Holy Eucharist (sacramental bread and wine), and the betrayal by Judas Iscariot.
On
Good Friday (2 days before Pascha) the crucifixion of Jesus at Calvary is commemorated, the holy saving and life-giving Passion of Jesus.
On
Holy Saturday (last day before Pascha) is seen as the day Christ 'rested' in the tomb, performing the 'Harrowing of Hell' where he brought salvation to all of the righteous who had died since the beginning of the world.

Easter itself starts with a procession at mid-night on Holy Saturday to commemorate the Resurrection.
Easter Sunday is the
Agape Vespers, or the eve king reading of the Gospel in various languages.

Pentecostarion is a 56 day period starting immediately after Pascha, and it starts with the Bright Week.
There is the
Ascension of Jesus (39 days after Pascha or 40 days as the Resurrection) where he leave Earth to rises to Heaven.
Pentecost (49 days after Pascha) commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles.
All Saints' Day (49 days after Pascha) closes the Pascha cycle with a Sunday dedicated to honouring all the Saints.


Public Holidays



Number of public holidays in different countries

UK Bank and Public Holidays and Observances


The formal definition is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, usually shortened to United Kingdom (UK). A Bank Holiday is a statutory national public holiday in the United Kingdom established by Royal proclamation, whereas public holidays are conventions in common law. England and Wales share the same legal jurisdiction and list of holidays, whereas there are some differences for Scotland, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands, and the Isle of Man.
For simplicity of presentation I have included in the below list also the public holidays in the Republic of Ireland. Most of their public holidays occur on the same day as in the UK.
Usually if a public holiday falls on a weekend, a 'substitute' weekday becomes that holiday, normal the following Monday is used.

According to one list there are in the UK a total of 95 days of observance of one or other religious events, including a few that occur of the same day. I've includes only a few of those in the below list.

New Year's Day - 1 January is a Bank Holiday
In Scotland Hogmanay usually begins in the afternoon or evening of New Year's Eve and continues to the early hours of New Year's Day. The custom of 'first footing' continues through to 2 January.

New Year Holiday - 2 January is
a holiday only in Scotland

Epiphany - 6 January

St. Patrick's Day - 17 March (the National Day in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland)
Saint Patrick (ca. 385-461) is the foremost patron saint of Ireland (Éire)

Good Friday - precedes Easter Sunday (see religious festivals, it is not a holiday in the Republic of Ireland)

Easter Monday - follows Easter Sunday (is not a holiday in Scotland)

Early May Bank Holiday (
May Day) - first Monday in May

Liberation Day - 9 May (celebrated only in the Channel Islands)

Spring Bank Holiday - last Monday in May
The Republic of Ireland has their Spring Bank Holiday on the first Monday in June.

Senior Race Day - first Friday in June (celebrated only in the Isle of Man)

Tynwald Day - 5 July (celebrated as National Day in the Isle of Man)

The Twelfth - Battle of the Boyne - 12 July
Also called the Orangemen's Day, a celebration by Ulster Protestant in Northern Ireland.
The 12 July is also called the
Glorious Twelfth because it's the start of the shooting season for red grouse.

Summer Bank Holiday - last Monday of August (not celebrated the
Republic of Ireland)
In Scotland the Summer Bank Holiday is celebrated on the first Monday in August.

October Holiday - last Monday in October (only celebrated in the Republic of Ireland)

St. Andrew's Day - 30 November (celebrated as National Day in Scotland)
Andrew the Apostle (ca. 5-60 AD) is the foremost patron saint of Scotland

Christmas Day - 25 December

Boxing Day - 26 December
Also called Saint Stephen's Day, commemorating the first Christian martyr Saint Stephen (ca. 5-37 AD).

Paradises, Utopias, Heavens, Hells, and Mythical Places


Home of the Gods
Asgard - a mystical place that is home to the gods in Norse mythology. Valhalla is Odin's afterlife hall for those slain on the battlefield, which was located in Asgard.
Heaven - or the heavens, is a common religious cosmological, or transcendent supernatural place where beings such as gods, angels, spirits, saints, or venerated ancestors are said to originate, be enthroned, or live.
Kunlun - is a mountain or mountain range in Chinese mythology, and an important symbol representing the axis mundi and divinity. It is the dwelling place of various gods and goddesses, where fabled plants and mythical creatures may also be found.
Mount Olympus - the home of the Greek gods was on the Mytikas peak.
Takamagahara - in Shinto it is the dwelling place of the heavenly gods.
Vaikuntha - is the celestial dwelling of Vishnu who is the principal deity of the Universes and known to be the supreme being in Vedic, Hinduism, and its Vaishnavism traditions.

Utopias - utopias are imaginary societies with a near perfect quality of life for it's citizens
A Modern Utopia - H. G. Wells (1866-1946) describes an imaginary, progressive utopia on a planetary scale in which the social and technological environment are in continuous improvement, a world state owns all land and power sources, positive compulsion and physical labour have been all but eliminated, general freedom is assured, and an open, voluntary order of "samurai" rules.
Arcadia - a mythical Greek vision of idyllic pastoralism and harmony with unspoilt nature, and associated with the ancient region of Arcadia. Takes its name from Arcas, the mythological king of Arcadia, remembered for teaching the arts of weaving and baking bread. It was the home of the Pan, the god of the wild, shepherds and flocks, rustic music, and the companion of nymphs.
Atlantis - a fictional island mentioned by Plato, who justified the superiority of his concept of a state because Atlantis had failed to conquer Athens. Later Atlantis fell out of favour with the deities and it sunk into the Atlantic Ocean. Atlantis was taken up as an example of a utopia by Renaissance writers such as Francis Bacon and Thomas More.
Cloud Cuckoo Land - Aristophanes (ca. 446-386 BC), a Greek playwright, wrote in and directed in ca. 414 BC a drama The Birds, describing a state of absurdly, over-optimistic fantasy or an unrealistically idealistic state where everything is perfect.
Erewhon - Samuel Butler described a fictional country (the title is 'nowhere' backwards) as a satire on Victorian society.
Island - Aldous Huxley (1894-1963) created the fictional utopian society on an island called Pala.
Islandia - where Austin Tappan Wright (1993-1931) described an imaginary island containing many Arcadian elements, including a policy of isolation from the outside world and a rejection of industrialism.
Islands of the Sun - is a utopian novel by Iambulus sometime between 165 and 50 BC. It chronicles the journey of the eponymous character Iambulus who discovers a seemingly perfect island nation.
New Atlantis - an incomplete utopian novel by Francis Bacon (1561-1626), depicting the creation of a utopian land where "generosity and enlightenment, dignity and splendour, piety and public spirit" are the commonly held qualities of the inhabitants.
News from Nowhere - William Morris (1843-1896) described 'Nowhere' as a place without politics, a future society based on common ownership and democratic control of the means of production.
Oceana - described by James Harrington in 1656 as a constitutionalist utopian republic in which a balanced allocation of land ensured a balanced government.
Paititi - a legendary Inca lost city or utopian rich land, allegedly lying East of the Andes.
Panchaia - an island, first mentioned by ancient Greek philosopher Euhemerus in the late 4th century BC, and home to a society made up of a number of different ethnic tribes. Described by Eusebius of Caesarea (ca. 260-340 AD) as a rational island paradise located in the Indian Ocean.
Shangri-La - mystical, harmonious earthly paradise, isolated from the world, a kind of Himalayan utopia.
Utopia - about how things should be in the new island 'Utopia' written by Thomas More (1478–1535).
Walden Two - B. F. Skinner (1904-1990) described a community in which every aspect of living is put to rigorous scientific testing.

Mythical Places
The Fields of Aaru is a heavenly paradise where Osiris ruled. Those souls who passed the Weighing of the Heart were allowed to start a long and perilous journey to the Field of Reeds, where they will exist in pleasure for all eternity.
Amaravati is a sacred city in Hindu mythology located inside the celestial realm known as Indraloka. The heaven of Lord Indra is a region for the virtuous alone with celestial gardens called Nandana.
Avalon - the legendary King Arthur was taken there on a black boat to recover from his wounds after fighting Mordred at the Battle of Camlann. The place was where "the ladies live who know all the magic of the world", and it was also where the Excalibur was forged.
Axis mundi - the Earth's axis, representing the connection between Heaven and Earth.
Brahmaloka - Located on Mount Meru, in Buddhist tradition this is the highest of the joyful worlds a person might attain. In Hindu mythology Brahmaloka is the abode Lord Brahma, the creator god. Brahmaloka is a garden filled with all kind of flowers.
Camelot - mythical castle and court of the legendary King Arthur.
El Dorado - a mythical place in Colombia where an abundance of precious stones and gold coins were to be found. It was thought to be located on Lake Parime, beyond the mountain on the left bank of the Orinoco River.
Elysian Fields - in Ancient Greece this was a paradise where the righteous and heroic remained after death.
Fortunate Isles - or Isles of the Blessed were semi-legendary islands in the Atlantic Ocean, variously treated as a simple geographical location and as a winterless earthly paradise inhabited by the heroes of Greek mythology.
Garden of Eden - a paradise described in the Book of Genesis, and home of Adam and Eve.
Garden of the Hesperides - in Greek mythology this was the garden of the nymphs of evening and sunset.
Mictlān - the underworld of Aztec mythology and where most people who die would go. There are nine levels, and the dead must pass many challenges to go from the first to the ninth level.
Mount Meru is the sacred five-peaked mountain of Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist cosmology and is considered to be the centre of all the physical, metaphysical and spiritual universes. In Hindu mythology Mount Meru is also the location of Brahmaloka, the abode Lord Brahma, the creator god.
Nirvāṇa - is not a place but is commonly associated with Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism, and represents its ultimate state of soteriological release, the liberation from repeated rebirth in saṃsāra. All Indian religions assert it to be a state of perfect quietude, freedom, highest happiness as well as the liberation from or ending of samsāra, the repeating cycle of birth, life and death.
Swarga is one of the seven higher esoteric plane in Hindu cosmology. Swarga is a set of heavenly worlds located on and above Mount Meru where the righteous live in paradise waiting their next incarnation.
Tlālōcān - is described in several Aztec codices as a paradise, ruled over by the rain deity Tlaloc. It welcomes those who died through drowning or lightning, or as a consequence of diseases associated with the rain deity.
Valhalla - Odin's enormous afterlife hall for those slain on the battlefield, which was located in Asgard. Half of those slain went to Valhalla, and half went to the goddess Freyja's field Fólkvangr.

Hells
Duat - in Egyptian mythology those souls who did not pass the Weighing of the Heart fell into the crocodilian jaws of the demon Ammit. After this 'second death', the soul was doomed to restlessness in Duat.
Diyu - is the realm of the dead or 'hell' in Chinese mythology.
Hel - in Norse mythology it is a location that shares a name with Hel, a being who rules over the location. It is said to be place for those who have died of sickness and old age (in opposition to Valhalla).
Hell - an afterlife location in which evil souls are subjected to punitive suffering, often torture as eternal punishment after death.
Irkalla - an ancient Mesopotamian underworld that was a dark, dreary cavern located deep below the ground, and where inhabitants were believed to continue 'a shadowy version of life on earth'.
Naraka - the realm of hell in Indian religions, and according to some schools of Hinduism, Sikhism, Jainism and Buddhism, it is a place of torment.
Purgatory - an intermediate state after physical death for expiatory purification.
Xibalba - a 'place of fear' or underworld in Maya mythology, ruled by the Maya death gods and their helpers.
Yomi - is the Japanese word for the land of the dead (World of Darkness), and according to Shinto mythology is related in Kojiki, the place where the dead go in the afterlife.