Since ancient times, humans throughout the world have celebrated dogs! Many ancient civilizations even worshiped dogs or thought them to be powerful spirits. Times have obviously changed over the last few thousand years, but cultures around the world still have holidays that celebrate dogs. Let’s look at both ancient festivals and modern-day dog holidays!
Ancient and Modern Holidays that Celebrate Dogs
Ancient Egypt: Festivals of Anubis
The ancient Egyptians, for example, honored the jackal-headed god Anubis who protected the spirits of the dead and guided them through the underworld. In fact, jackals were often seen around graves and tombs, and this led to ancient Egyptians believing they were sacred. Also, domestic dogs were buried at Anubis’s temple, because ancient Egyptians believed it would help the dogs pass into the afterlife. Throughout the year, there were various festivals that the ancient Egyptians celebrated that honored Anubis. At many of these celebrations, a giant statue of the god would be paraded around.
Ancient Mesopotamia: Honoring the Dog’s Healing Powers
Dogs were also honored in ancient Mesopotamia. In fact, their saliva was considered to have medicinal and healing powers. The dog was also believed to be a companion of the Mesopotamian gods of healing. Furthermore, there was even a temple in Mesopotamia called “the dog house” that was operated by a dog cult in the area.
Zoroastrianism: Creating Rights for Dogs
Zoroastrianism is an ancient monotheistic religion that was founded in Iran. Zoroastrianism teaches that dogs are clean and righteous animals and that dogs have spiritual virtues and can ward off demons. The religion’s scared texts even give detailed descriptions on how to treat dogs properly. Committing a harmful act against a dog was as bad as committing a harmful act against another human.
China: Celebrating the Birthday of All Dogs
In China, the second day of the Chinese New Year is considered to be the birthday of all dogs. The Chinese are extra kind to dogs on this day.
Catholicism: Feast of St. Roch (August 16)
St. Roch is the Catholic patron saint of dogs and his feast day is on August 16. St. Roch lived during the plague and went to Rome to help out the victims. After contracting the plague himself, he ran off into the woods to die. However, a hunting dog found him, brought him food, and licked his wounds. His wounds healed. Now, throughout the world, Catholics celebrate the Feast of St. Roch by getting their dogs blessed.
Nepal: Kukur Tihar
Tihar is a five-day festival celebrated by the Hindus. The second day of this festival is called Kukur Tihar (worship of the dogs). Hindus believe that dogs are the messengers of the God of Death. During this day, people treat all dogs as holy and give garlands and food to dogs.
Nowadays, almost every day is some kind of “national holiday.” Many businesses, non-profits, and other organizations have created some of these special days to raise awareness for certain causes. And there are many days and months dedicated to dogs. For example, the Association of Professional Dog Trainers acknowledges that January is National Train Your Dog Month. The association offers webinars and tips to promote proper dog training. Additionally, here are some other important dates:
February 23: International Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day
March 1: Iditarod Trail Dog Sled Race
March 23: National Puppy Day
1st Week of May: Puppy Mill Action Week (spread awareness and work to shut down puppy mills)
July 31: National Mutt Day
October: Adopt a Dog Month and Pit Bull Awareness Month