Five holy events and holidays are packed into late March. Here’s why.

Color throwing and other activities took place at the March 20, 2022 Holi celebrations in Fair lawn, N.J. as thousands of community members enjoyed the celebrations. Photo: ITV Gold

In an unusual calendar twist, five holidays and celebrations from different cultures and religions are being observed simultaneously or within days of one another: Holi, Nowruz, Easter, Purim and Ramadan.

So why are they falling so close together this year?

Nowruz marks the spring equinox, when day and night are of equal length, and so usually falls on or around March 20, while Western Christian churches celebrate Easter – and the Sunday before it, known as Palm Sunday – based on the first full moon after the equinox.

Hinduism and Judaism, meanwhile, have lunar-solar calendars, meaning that while the date may change on the Gregorian calendar, they still take place around the same time each year. Ramadan, on the other hand, is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, which is about 11 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar and so lands on different seasons over the years.

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New York City Mayor Eric Adams announces a new NYPD initiative to support and facilitate the Islamic call to public prayer at regularly prescribed times each Friday and during the holy month of Ramadan, at City Hall on Tuesday, August 29, 2023. Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

Ramadan: Began March 10 or 11 (depending on location)

Muslims around the world mark Ramadan, the ninth and holiest month of the Islamic calendar, with fasts, prayer and reflection. They believe that the Quran was first revealed to the prophet Muhammad during this time.

From dawn until sunset, Muslims fast. People often eat their first meal, known as suhoor, before sunrise and break their fast at iftar. Abstaining from food and drink during Ramadan’s daylight hours is one of the five pillars of the religion.

This year’s Ramadan is shrouded in grief for many Muslims in the United States, after more than 31,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza during the war between Israel and Hamas, which was prompted after Hamas militants attacked Israel and left about 1,200 people dead.

The festival of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan, is expected to fall around April 9, depending on the sighting of the new moon.

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Nowruz: March 20 in Iran, March 19 in the United States

Nowruz marks the first day of spring and is celebrated at the exact time of the spring equinox. That happened at 6:36 a.m., March 20, in Tehran, and just after 11 p.m. Eastern time on March 19.

Celebrated for more than 3,000 years with origins in Zoroastrianism, the Persian New Year is observed by Iranians, Kurds, Afghans and others. Rituals include small bonfires, deep spring home cleaning and a decorative altar called a haft-seen, which includes seven symbolic objects beginning with the letter similar to “S” in Farsi.

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Purim: March 23-24 (celebrated a day later in Jerusalem)

Purim falls unusually late this March because it is a leap year on the Hebrew calendar, meaning there is an extra month. Jews celebrate the ancient holiday by reading the Book of Esther, which tells the story of the Jewish victory over an enemy who called for their elimination more than 2,000 years ago.

Observers customarily give to the needy, send gifts to friends and neighbors, and cook a festive meal. They also dress up for what is supposed to be a joyous, fun holiday. This year, though, some Jewish Americans are rethinking how they should observe Purim in light of the Israel-Gaza war, with some offering alternative endings to the text’s last full chapter that details the ancient Israelites killing some 75,000 of their enemies.

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Palm Sunday: March 24

The week before Easter, Christians observe Palm Sunday, which celebrates Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. It also begins Holy Week, the most sacred on the Christian calendar. Christians celebrate the holiday with a blessing of the palms – Jesus was greeted by crowds waving palm branches when he entered Jerusalem, according to the Bible – and reading the final story of Jesus’ life.

Easter for many Christians this year falls on March 31, the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after the spring equinox. Orthodox Christians calculate Easter based on the first full moon after the Jewish festival of Passover, so their celebrations this year will be on May 5.

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Thousands of members of the Fair Lawn, New Jersey community celebrated Holi March 20, 2022. Photo: ITV Gold

Holi: March 25

Holi, known as the festival of colors, typically falls in March and is celebrated in many South Asian countries and across the world, including in the United States.

The celebration lands during the day of the last full moon of the Hindu month of Falgun – this year on March 25 – and has origins in Hindu traditions, the Associated Press reports.

The holiday commemorates a time for rebirth and the triumph of good over evil at the beginning of spring. Revelers take to the streets and throw colored powders in the air and at one another, bringing joy to the end of winter. Some celebrations have already begun, including in places like Kolkata and Hyderabad, India, where processions marking the festivals have already taken place. In Washington, Holi celebrations will take place in Dupont Circle and Union Market with color throwing and music.



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