Mawlid al-Nabi (Sat., Jan. 3, 2015)*
This holiday celebrates the birthday of Muhammad, the founder of Islam. It is fixed as the 12th day of the month of Rabi I in the Islamic calendar.
Epiphany (from Greek epiphaneia, "manifestation"), falls on the 12th day after Christmas. It commemorates the manifestation of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, as represented by the Magi, the baptism of Jesus, and the miracle of the wine at the marriage feast at Cana. One of the three major Christian festivals, along with Christmas and Easter. Epiphany originally marked the beginning of the carnival season preceding Lent, and the evening preceding it is known as Twelfth Night.
A federal holiday observed on the third Monday in January that honors the late civil rights leader. It became a federal holiday in 1986.
*All Jewish and Islamic holidays begin at sundown on the evening before the date given.
Legend has it that if the groundhog sees his shadow, he'll return to his hole, and winter will last another six weeks.
A holiday in a few states, this day was first formally observed in Washington, DC, in 1866, when both houses of Congress gathered for a memorial address in tribute to the assassinated president. In some places, it is combined with Washington's Birthday and celebrated as President's Day.
Originally a pagan festival, the holiday eventually was recast as a Christian feast day in honor of St. Valentine—but there are at least three different early saints by that name. How the day became associated with romance remains obscure, and is further clouded by various fanciful legends.
A federal holiday observed the third Monday in February. The actual date of Washington's birthday is Feb. 22. It is a common misconception that the federal holiday was changed to "Presidents' Day" and now celebrates both Washington and Lincoln. Only Washington is commemorated by the federal holiday; 13 states, however, officially celebrate "Presidents' Day."
Shrove Tuesday falls the day before Ash Wednesday and marks the end of the carnival season, which once began on Epiphany but is now usually celebrated the last three days before Lent. In France, the day is known as Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday), and celebrations are held in several American cities, particularly New Orleans. The day is sometimes called Pancake Tuesday by the English because fats, which were prohibited during Lent, had to be used up.
The seventh Wednesday before Easter and the first day of Lent, which lasts 40 days. Having its origin sometime before A.D. 1000, it is a day of public penance and is marked in the Roman Catholic Church by the burning of the palms blessed on the previous year's Palm Sunday. With the ashes from the palms the priest then marks a cross with his thumb upon the forehead of each worshipper. The Anglican Church and a few Protestant groups in the United States also observe the day, but generally without the use of ashes.
The most important celebration in the Chinese calendar. Chinese months are reckoned by the lunar calendar, with each month beginning on the darkest day. New Year festivities traditionally start on the first day of the month and continue until the fifteenth, when the moon is brightest. In China, the New Year is a time for family reunions. In the United States, however, many early Chinese immigrants arrived without their families, and found a sense of community by celebrating the holiday through neighborhood associations.