This map shows the religious orientation of public holidays observed by the national governments or all their constituent states. While the majority of countries only observe religious holidays from one particular religion, more than 50 countries observe holidays from two or more religions. Some countries even observe them from four different religions, while others do not observe any religious holidays.
It is interesting to analyze which countries have a large discrepancy between officially recognized religious holidays and the percentage of followers in each country. In some nations, there are observed holidays that are not widely celebrated, whereas in other countries, many people celebrate holidays that are not officially recognized.
Despite only 0.1% of people in East Timor being Muslim, Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr are both observed there. Since East Timor was relatively recently part of Indonesia and Indonesia is mostly Muslim, this makes some sense. Bangladesh is another country where religious minorities have officially observed holidays despite making up a small portion of the population. Both Christmas and Buddha’s Birthday are holidays even though less than 1% of people follow these religions there.
Since the Republic of Srpska does not recognize Eid al-Fitr or Eid al-Adha, technically the country of Bosnia & Herzegovina does not observe any Muslim holidays nationally, despite being over 45% Muslim. Buddhist holidays are not officially observed in China, Taiwan, or Japan, since these countries maintain a tradition of separation between religion and the state. Despite over 18% of people being Muslim in Israel, only Jewish holidays are officially observed by the government.
6 Countries with the Most Diverse Holidays
Six countries in Asia are unique since they recognize holidays from four different religions. They include Bangladesh, Indonesia, Myanmar, Nepal, Singapore, and Sri Lanka. These countries embrace diversity and respect for different religions, so it is reflected in their official calendars. This is not necessarily a list of the absolutely most religiously diverse countries, only the country’s whose national governments officially recognize holidays from the most religions.
In Bangladesh, the government recognizes holidays from Muslim, Hindu, Christian, and Buddhist festivals. The majority of the population in Bangladesh is Muslim, and Islamic festivals such as Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Adha are celebrated nationwide. Hindus, who make up the second-largest religious group in Bangladesh, celebrate festivals like Durga Puja and Janmashtami. Christians celebrate Christmas, while Buddhists celebrate Vesak Day.
Indonesia is the largest Muslim-majority country in the world, but the government recognizes holidays from multiple religions. Apart from Islamic holidays, the government recognizes Christian, Hindu, and Buddhist festivals as well. Christmas and Easter are celebrated by Christians, while Hindus celebrate Nyepi, and Buddhists celebrate Vesak Day.
Myanmar is a predominantly Buddhist country, but the government recognizes holidays from Christian, Islamic, and Hindu festivals as well. The Buddhist festival of Thadingyut is celebrated widely in the country. Christians celebrate Christmas, while Muslims celebrate Eid-ul-Adha. The Hindu festival of Diwali is a national holiday as well.
Nepal has the highest percentage of Hindus of any country. Still, it has a diverse religious landscape. Its government officially recognizes holidays from Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, and Islamic festivals. Hindu festivals like Dashain and Tihar are celebrated nationwide, while Buddhists celebrate Vesak Day. Christmas and Eid-ul-Adha are also national holidays as well.
Singapore is a multicultural country that recognizes holidays from Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism. The country has a significant Buddhist population, since many people are ethnic Chinese. Therefore, Vesak Day is a national holiday. Christmas and Easter are celebrated by Christians, while Muslims celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Adha. Since Singapore has a significant amount of immigrants from South Asia, Divali is also observed there.
Like Singapore, more than 5% of people in Sri Lanka follow one of four different religions. The government recognizes holidays from Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, and Islamic festivals. The country has a Buddhist majority, and festivals like Vesak and Poson are celebrated widely. Hindus celebrate Thai Pongal and Diwali, while Christians celebrate Christmas. Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Adha are also national holidays.
5 Countries with No Religious Holidays
Interestingly enough, the five countries that do not officially recognize any religious holidays are also from Asia. They include China, Japan, North Korea, Taiwan, and Vietnam. It’s worth noting that Tomb-sweeping day, which is celebrated in China and Korea, is arguably religious. On this day, people visit the graves of their ancestors to honor their memories. However, it is certainly non-denominational and has been left out of the list of recognized religious holidays.
Since the Cultural Revolution, China has become secular state that does not officially recognize any religious holidays. However, some traditional festivals like Spring Festival (Chinese New Year), Qingming Festival (Tomb Sweeping Day), and Mid-Autumn Festival are widely celebrated by the Chinese people. While these festivals have roots in Chinese folklore, they are not necessarily religious in nature. Still, over 18% of people in China consider themselves to be Buddhists, although the number is likely uncounted.
Japan is a secular country, so its government does not officially recognize any religious holidays. However, some festivals like Shinto and Buddhist festivals are widely celebrated by the Japanese people. For example, New Year’s Day is an important holiday in Japan, and many Japanese visit shrines and temples during this time. The country prioritizes secular holidays that are more inclusive and relevant to a broader segment of the population, like Coming of Age Day and Children’s Day.
North Korea is officially an atheist country, and the government does not recognize any religious holidays. Under Kim Il-sung’s leadership, the nation adopted a policy of Juche, which emphasizes self-reliance, nationalism, and rejection of outside influences. This policy also included the rejection of religion, which was seen as a foreign influence that could threaten the state’s ideology and control over its citizens.
Taiwan is a secular country that does not officially recognize any religious holidays. However, some traditional festivals like Lunar New Year, Dragon Boat Festival, and Mid-Autumn Festival are widely celebrated by the Taiwanese people. While these festivals have roots in Chinese folklore and culture, they are not necessarily religious in nature. Despite having a high population of atheists, over 20% of their people consider themselves to be Buddhist.
During Vietnam‘s colonial period, French Catholicism was introduced to the country, and it became a dominant religion among the Vietnamese elite. However, after the Vietnam War, the country officially became a communist state. The government promotes atheism and discourages religious practices as part of its socialist ideology. Still, some traditional festivals like Tet (Lunar New Year), Mid-Autumn Festival, and Hung King Temple Festival are still widely celebrated by the Vietnamese people..