Sikh celebrations commemorate important events throughout Sikh history. Sikhism dates back to 1469 AD and has its origins in 15th century Punjab. Obscure records dated according to lunar calendars of Punjab, in use centuries ago, are transcribed to coincide with modern solar Indian calendars, and adapted to the Western Gregorian calendar. Dates differ with each succeeding year and can result in confusion. The Nanakshahi calendar developed in the 20th century corresponds to the names of months which appear in the Guru Granth Sahib. Commemorative events are fixed to the standardized Western calendar so that they may be celebrated around the world on the same date year after year. Even so, celebrations may occur weeks preceding the given date.
The annual event of Hola Mohalla is a martial arts parade historically coinciding with Holi, the Hindu festival of colors which occurs in March. Hola Mohalla celebrations in the Punjab traditionally take place for up to a week with a parade occurring on the final day. Festivities include demonstrations and displays of skill involving Gatka, the Sikh martial arts sword play, and may include other feats such as horsemanship. In the USA, Hola Mohalla takes the form of nagar kirtan parades with demonstrations of gatka, the Sikh martial art. These events may be held in various locations over several weekends preceding the actual date of the holiday.
Gadee is Sikh word meaning throne. Each of the ten gurus, or spiritual masters of Sikhism were inaugurated by turn. Guru Gadee is a festivity celebrating the inauguration of the Guru Granth Sahib as the everlasting Guru of the Sikhs on October 20, 1708. Guru Gadee is celebrated as an annual event in late October through early November. Sikh devotees parade the Guru Granth Sahib through the streets atop floats or carried on their shoulders in a palanquin.
Gur-purab is the commemoration of the anniversary of important events in each of the ten guru's lives which include:
- Martyrdom, or death.
- Guru Nanak's gurpurab is celebrated during pooran mashi, the full moon, in late November or early December. This festive occasion often lasts several days and nights, and may include:
- Akhand paath, a complete reading of scripture from Guru Granth.
- Kirtan, or devotional singing.
- Rainsabaee or all night kirtan
- Nagar kirtan parades.
- Guru Gobind Singh's Birth and the shaheed or martyrdom, of his four sons are observed during winter holidays in late December with rainsabaee kirtan, an all night worship service.
Shaheedi celebrations are memorial events honoring the sacrifice of Sikh martyrs. Commemoration services include rain sabaee, or all night keertan programs. Shaheeds include but are not limited to:
- Guru Arjan Dev and his three disciples.
- Guru Har Krishan.
- Guru Teg Bahadur.
- The four sons and mother of Guru Gobind Singh.
- Guru Gobind Singh.
- The forty liberated ones.
- Women and children, imprisoned and tortured.
- Bhai Mani Singh, dismembered.
- Bhai Taru Singh, scalped alive.
- 25,000 victims of the 1762 Great Holocaust.
- Martyrs who stopped the Panja Sahib train in 1922.
- Thirteen martyrs including Bhai Fauja Singh who upheld the honor of Guru Granth Sahib in 1978.
- Victims of the 1984 invasion of the Golden Temple and Delhi riots.