Diversity Calendar 2017: Multicultural Holidays for Inclusive Companies

Last updated: Oct. 30, 2017

Diversity Calendar 2017: Multicultural Holidays for Inclusive Companies (IMG)

What is your motivation for seeking a diversity calendar? In our quest to make our companies more diverse and inclusive–and to become more well-rounded, accepting people overall–clients and team members at Excellent Presence seek to understand what other cultures and societal groups find important.

What are their worldviews, passions, hopes, and fears?

What keeps them up at night?

What days of the year are special to them, and why?

This article speaks to the latter specifically, and will hopefully be immensely valuable to your inclusive company when deciding how to celebrate diversity in the workplace.

Multicultural holidays and religious holidays are spotlighted, chiefly those recognized in the U.S.

While there are a wide range of holidays and special days provided, most are relevant to Black Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, disabled citizens, women, and non-Christian religious groups.

Whether you’re seeking to complete a diversity and inclusion calendar for your company, or simply to learn more about holidays in different cultures, this list offers a wealth of dates important to both religious and ethnic minorities in the U.S., as well as the people who want to honor them.

Our one-page blog format saves you the frustration of paging slowly through, month by month, like you would on a typical calendar. (Especially useful on mobile!)

Instead, diversity holidays are listed here by category.

Then, within each category, they’re organized by month for easy chronological use.

We hope this helps you quickly find the most relevant dates to your life, research, or organization.

As comprehensive and accurate as we’ve tried to make it, please use this list as a reference, not as a diversity holiday “bible.”

For your convenience, we’ve included brief blurbs of the general significance of each special day/month, plus a bit of info on some of its more common religious cultural celebrations.

We strongly suggest at least briefly verifying the date(s) of a holiday for your year of interest (i.e., 2017, as many dates change from year to year), plus doing additional research to get a better idea of the significance of the holiday.

Be sure to bookmark this page to refer to often!

Diversity Holidays by Category

Our one-page blog format saves you the frustration of paging slowly through, month by month, like you would on a typical calendar. (Especially useful on mobile!)

Instead, diversity holidays are listed here by category.

Then, within each category, they’re organized by month for easy chronological use.

We hope this helps you quickly find the most relevant dates to your life, research, or organization.

General Diversity Holidays

April is Celebrate Diversity Month. It was started in 2004 to recognize and honor the diversity surrounding us all. By celebrating differences and similarities during this month, organizers hope that people will get a deeper understanding of each other.

May 21 is World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development, a day set aside by the United Nations in 2001  as an opportunity to deepen our understanding of the values of cultural diversity and to learn to live together better.

The first full week of October marks National Diversity Week, founded in 1998 to raise awareness about the diversity which has shaped, and continues to shape, the United States. It’s celebrated on a city- or company-wide scale across the U.S., though some organizations observe it at other times of the year.

The 3rd Monday in October is Multicultural Diversity Day, a national day created by Cleorah Scruggs, a fourth-grade teacher in Flint, Michigan, the day was adopted as a national event by the NEA’s 1993 Representative Assembly to “increase awareness of the tremendous need to celebrate our diversity collectively.”

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Black/African American Holidays

January is Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month begun by President Barack Obama. On December 28th 2016, he called upon businesses, national & community organizations, families, and all Americans to recognize the vital role they must play in ending all forms of slavery, and to observe this month with appropriate programs and activities.

January 1 is the Emancipation Proclamation anniversary. On this date in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln signed this document proclaiming that all slaves living within rebelling Confederate states “are, and henceforth shall be, free.”

January 5 is George Washington Carver Day. Dr. Carver was awarded the Roosevelt Medal in 1939 for saving Southern agriculture, which was later instrumental in feeding the United States during World War II). For this reason, Dr. Carver’s hometown was made a historic site upon his death on Jan. 5, 1943. During the 79th Congress, Public Law 290 was passed to designate January 5th of each year as George Washington Carver Recognition Day.

January 16 (Third Monday in January) is Martin Luther King Day, commemorating the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr., the recipient of the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize and an activist for nonviolent social change until his assassination in 1968.

February is Black History Month in the United States and Canada. Since 1976, the month has been designated to remember the contributions of people of the African Diaspora. Historian Carter G. Woodson launched the holiday because contributions that African Americans have made to U.S. culture and society are largely omitted from and overlooked in history books.

February 4 is Rosa Parks Day, is an American holiday in honor of the civil rights leader. In California and Missouri, Rosa Parks Day is celebrated on her birthday, February 4. In Ohio and Oregon, it’s celebrated on the day she was arrested, December 1.

February 14 is Frederick Douglass Day. The day marks the birthday of Frederick Douglass (born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey). He was an American social reformer, orator, writer and statesman. After escaping from slavery, he became a leader of the abolitionist movement, gaining note for his dazzling oratory and incisive antislavery writing. He stood as a living counter-example to slaveholders’ arguments that slaves did not have the intellectual capacity to function as independent American citizens.

March 5 is Crispus Attucks Day, or Boston Massacre Day. It has been observed since 1771, mainly in Boston, Massachusetts. Since 1949, Crispus Attucks Day has also been a legal day of observance in the state of New Jersey. Crispus Attucks was the first Black American to die during the Boston Massacre on March 5, 1770, a key event leading up to the Revolutionary War. For this reason, he is considered the first American fatality of the War.

March 10 is Harriet Tubman Day, an American holiday in honor of the anti-slavery activist Harriet Tubman (born Araminta Ross), observed nationally, in the State of New York, and locally around the State of Maryland. Despite great hardship and great danger, Ms. Tubman undertook 19 trips as a conductor to lead hundreds of slaves to freedom. She later became an eloquent and effective speaker on behalf of the movement to abolish slavery, also serving the Civil War as a soldier, spy, and nurse, among other roles.

March 16 marks publication of the First Black Newspaper in America. In 1827, Samuel Cornish and John B. Russwurm debuted “Freedom’s Journal,” the first African-American-owned and operated newspaper published in the U.S. All 103 issues have been digitized and are available at the Wisconsin Historical Society’s website.

April 15 is Jackie Robinson Day, a traditional event which occurs annually in Major League Baseball, commemorating and honoring the day Jackie Robinson made his major league debut. April 15 was Opening Day in 1947, Robinson’s first season in the Major Leagues. Initiated for the first time on April 15, 2004, Jackie Robinson Day is celebrated each year on that day.

April 16 is Emancipation Day, a holiday in Washington DC to mark the anniversary of the signing of the Compensated Emancipation Act, which president Abraham Lincoln signed on April 16, 1862. It freed more than 3000 slaves in the District of Columbia.

May 17 is the Anniversary of the School Desegregation Ruling. In 1954, racial segregation in public schools was unanimously ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education, found to violate the 14th Amendment clause guaranteeing equal protection under the law.

May 19 is Malcolm X Day, an American holiday in honor of civil rights leader Malcolm X, celebrated either on his birthday or the 3rd Sunday of May. The commemoration was proposed as an official state holiday in the State of Illinois in 2015. As of present, only the city of Berkeley, California observes the holiday with city offices and schools closed.

May 25 is African Liberation Day. Also known as African Freedom Day, it is a day to “mark, each year, the onward progress of the liberation movement, and to symbolize the determination of the People of Africa to free themselves from foreign domination and exploitation.”

June is African American Music Appreciation Month. It began in 1979 when Kenny Gamble, Ed Wright, and Dyana Williams developed the idea to set aside a month dedicated to celebrating the impact of Black music. In 2009, President Barack Obama declared the start of summer as a celebration for all the Black “musicians, composers, singers, and songwriters [who] have made enormous contributions to our culture.” On May 31, 2016, President Obama officially declared the month of June as African American Music Appreciation Month.

June 12 is Loving Day, which commemorates the date in 1967 that an interracial couple got the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down anti-miscegenation laws in the country. Today, blacks, whites and others celebrate June 12 as Loving Day throughout the nation.

Second Sunday in June (June 12) is the “Odunde Festival” (African New Year). This one-day festival is mostly a street market catered to African-American interests and the African diaspora derived from the tradition of the Yoruba people of Nigeria in celebration of the new year. It’s centered at the intersection of Grays Ferry Avenue and South Street in Philadelphia, PA. The Odunde festival started in Philly in 1975, established by Lois Fernandez with just $100 in neighborhood donations. Now, this celebration is the largest African celebration on the east coast of the U.S.

June 19 is Juneteenth, (AKA “Freedom Day” or “Emancipation Day”), and is observed as a public holiday in 14 U.S. states. This celebration honors the day in 1865 when slaves in Texas and Louisiana finally heard that they were free, two full months after the end of the Civil War. June 19, therefore, became the day of emancipation for thousands of Black U.S. citizens. While most slaves received their freedom after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, slaves in Texas had to wait more than 2.5 years later to receive their freedom — on June 19, 1865 when the Union Army arrived in Galveston ordering that slavery end in the “Lone Star State.” Ever since, African Americans have celebrated that date as “Juneteenth Independence Day.” Juneteenth is an official State Holiday in Texas.

July 19 is the Maafa commemoration. This commemoration provides an opportunity for members of the African-descended community to remember the millions of Africans — men, women, and children — who were sold, kidnapped, shipped and who died along the route from Africa to the Americas.

July 18 is Nelson Mandela International Day in recognition of Mandela’s birthday on July 18, 2009, launched via unanimous decision of the UN General Assembly. It was inspired by a call Nelson Mandela made a year earlier for the next generation to take on the burden of leadership in addressing the world’s social injustices by saying, “It is in your hands now.” This day is more than a celebration of Madiba’s life, work, and legacy; it’s a global movement to take action to change the world for the better.

July 23 is Birthday of Haile Selassie (Rastafari), former Emperor of Ethiopia who Rastas considered to be God and their Savior, who would return to Africa the members of the black community living in exile. The Rastafari movement surfaced in Jamaica among peasant and working-class Black people and was propagated through the Rastas’ interest in reggae music, most notably that of Bob Marley, the Jamaican-born singer and songwriter.

August 13 is the date in 1920 that the red, black, and green Pan-African flag was formally adopted by The Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA-ACL) in Article 39 of the Declaration of the Rights of the Negro Peoples of the World.

August 17 is Marcus Garvey Day, which celebrates the birthday of the Jamaican politician and activist who is revered by Rastafarians. Garvey is credited with starting the Back to Africa movement, which encouraged those of African descent to return to the land of their ancestors during and after slavery in North America.

September 11 (or the 12th during a Leap Year) is Enkutatash, or the Ethiopian New Year. Rastafarians celebrate the New Year on this date and believe that Ethiopia is their spiritual home, a place they desire to return to. Enkutatash means “gift of jewels” in Amharic.  The celebration is both religious and secular with the day beginning with church services, followed by the family meal. Young children receive small gifts of money or bread after the girls gather flowers and sing, and boys paint pictures of saints. Families visit friends, and adults drink Ethiopian beer.

September 25 is when School Desegregation Came to Little Rock, AR. In 1957, nine teenagers became the first African-Americans to attend the all white Central High School in Arkansas, putting a national spotlight on racism. Former President Eisenhower sent federal troops to protect the students and ensure compliance with the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education school desegregation decision.

October 1 is Jerry Rescue Day. This observance celebrates the rescue of William Jerry Henry. Known as “Jerry,” Henry was a fugitive slave who was captured in Syracuse, New York, but freed from jail on October 1, 1851, with the help of abolitionists. Originally a protest against the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, the “Jerry Rescue” was commemorated on that day each year from 1852 to 1859, and on occasion after that time.

October 2 marks the date Thurgood Marshall was sworn into the Supreme Court. In 1967, Judge Marshall became the first African American to sit on the highest court in the land. Opposing discrimination and the death penalty, he championed free speech and civil liberties.

October 3 marks the date Frank Robinson was signed as Major League Manager. In 1974, hired by the Cleveland Indians, he became the first African American to manage a major league baseball team.

October 17 is Black Poetry Day, observed annually. This is a day to honor past and present black poets. Jupiter Hammon, the first published black poet in the United States, was born in Long Island, New York, on October 17, 1711. In honor of Hammon’s birth, we celebrate the contributions of all African Americans to the world of poetry.

Fourth Sunday in November (Nov. 26, 2017) is Umoja Karamu Celebration, created in 1971 by Edward Simms Jr. to inject new meaning and solidarity into the Black family through ceremony and symbol. Umoja Karamu means “unity feast” in Swahili, and is based around five colors and their meanings, which represent five historical periods in African-American history. Black represents Black families before slavery, White symbolizes the scattering of Black families during slavery, Red denotes the liberation from slavery, Green signifies the struggle for civil equality and Gold implies hope for the future.

December 1 is Rosa Parks Day, is an American holiday in honor of the civil rights leader. In Ohio and Oregon, Rosa Parks Day is celebrated on the day she was arrested, December 1. In California and Missouri, it is celebrated on her birthday, February 4.

December 26-January 1 is Kwanzaa, a holiday established in 1996 by Maulana Karenga as a time for African Americans to “discover and bring forth the best of our culture, both ancient and current, and use it as a foundation to bring into being models of human excellence and possibilities to enrich and expand our lives.”

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Hispanic/Latino American Holidays

March 13 is Carnaval Miami which is the biggest Hispanic carnival in the U.S. It is a 10-day celebration generally during the month of March that attracts more than one and a half million visitors to South Florida every year and encompasses typical Hispanic food, concerts, sports, culinary competitions, a live Jazz festival, art, and dancing (especially salsa en la Calle Ocho Festival) for the enjoyment of residents and tourists alike.

March 31 is Cesar Chavez holiday (California, Arizona and Texas). This holiday honors the Mexican-American labor and civil rights activist who gained attention in the 1960s as the leader of the United Farm Workers. His non-violent advocacy approach earned him worldwide respect. California, Arizona and Texas have made the day a state holiday; other states are considering doing so.

April 30 is El Día de los Niños. It celebrates and honors our children. This tradition born in Latin America is now an official holiday in the U.S. that brings our little ones closer to literacy.

May 5 is Cinco de Mayo. It celebrates the defeat of the French army during the Battle of Puebla (Batalla de Puebla) in Mexico on May 5, 1862. Cinco de Mayo is not a federal holiday in the United States. Organizations, businesses and schools are open as usual.

May 10 is Dia de las Madres (Mothers’ Day), observed on this date in Mexico and other Latin-American countries. The first official Mother’s’ Day celebration in Mexico was held on May 10, 1922.

The second weekend of June (June 10-12) is National Puerto Rican Day in New York City. The parade starts on Fifth Avenue on 44th Street and goes up to 86th Street. The parade continues to have tremendous attendance, now more than ever because of the Supreme Court judge Puerto Rican Sonia Sotomayor. She is an influential figure who grew up in the projects in the Bronx NY, managed to attend Princeton and Yale and became one of the most successful Hispanic women to date in the judicial field in the U.S.

September 15–October 15 is Hispanic Heritage Month. This month corresponds with Mexican Independence Day, which is celebrated on September 16, and recognizes the revolution in 1810 that ended Spanish dictatorship.

September 16 is Mexican Independence Day. The day commemorates Sept. 16, 1810, when Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla urged Mexicans to rise up against the Spanish-born ruling class.

Oct 12 is Spanish National Day, also known as Día de la Hispanidad (Spain). In most of the Spanish-speaking countries celebrated as Dia de la Raza, Columbus Day, or Pan-american Day. This holiday commemorates the arrival of Christopher Columbus in America. A holiday with complex and changing meanings. Hispanics in the U.S. are split on their political feelings about the holiday.

December 12 is Feast Day at Our Lady of Guadalupe. This day commemorates the appearance of the Virgin Mary near Mexico City in 1531.

December 16-24 is Las Posadas, a nine-day celebration in Mexico commemorating the trials Mary and Joseph endured during their journey to Bethlehem.

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Holidays for Women

March is Women’s History Month. Started in 1987, Women’s History Month recognizes all women for their valuable contributions to history and society.

March 8 is International Women’s Day. First observed in 1911 in Germany. In August 1910, an International Women’s Conference was organized to precede the general meeting of the Socialist Second International in Copenhagen, Denmark. Inspired in part by the American socialists, German Socialist Luise Zietz proposed the establishment of an annual International Women’s Day and was seconded by fellow socialist and later communist leader Clara Zetkin. It has now become a major global celebration honoring women’s economic, political, and social achievements.

August 26 is Women’s Equality Day, which commemorates the August 26, 1920 certification of the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which gave women the right to vote. Congresswoman Bella Abzug first introduced a proclamation for Women’s Equality Day in 1971. Since that time, every president has published a proclamation recognizing August 26 as Women’s Equality Day.

Each 3rd Sunday in September is National Women’s Friendship Day. It was created by women, and for women — by the Kappa Delta Sorority in 1999. The objective  of this day is to promote special friendship among women.

September 22 is American Business Women’s Day, observed annually. It is a day set aside to honor and reflect on the contributions and accomplishments of the millions of women in the workforce and the millions of women business owners in the U.S.

October 29 marks the date that the National Organization for Women (NOW) was founded in 1966 to take action to bring about equality for all women. The foundation focuses on a broad range of women’s rights issues, including economic justice, pay equity, racial discrimination, women’s health & body image, women with disabilities, reproductive rights & justice, family law, marriage & family formation rights of same-sex couples, representation of women in the media, and global feminist issues.

November 25 is International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, designated in 1999 by the UN General Assembly. At least 1 out of every 3 women around the world has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime — with the abuser usually someone known to her.

November 25 to December 10, the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, aims to raise public awareness and mobilize people everywhere to bring about change.

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Holidays for Persons with Disabilities

March is National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. It which was established to increase awareness and understanding of issues affecting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

March is National Multiple Sclerosis Education and Awareness Month. It was established to raise public awareness of the autoimmune disease that affects the brain and spinal cord and assist those with multiple sclerosis in making informed decisions about their health care.

March 13 – April 15 is Deaf History Month. This observance celebrates key events in deaf history, including the founding of Gallaudet University and the American School for the Deaf.

March 21 is World Down Syndrome Day. Each year the voice of people with Down syndrome, and those who live and work with them, grows louder.

April is Autism Awareness Month, established to raise awareness about the developmental disorder that affects children’s normal development of social and communication skills.

April 2 is World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD), created to raise awareness of the developmental disorder around the globe. WAAD was adopted by the United Nations in 2007 to shine a bright light on autism as a growing global health priority.

May 9 is National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day, to raise awareness about the importance of children’s mental health and to show that positive mental health is essential to a child’s healthy development from birth.

May is Better Hearing and Speech Month, begun to raise awareness about communication disorders and promote treatment to improve quality of life for those who experience problems with speaking, understanding, or hearing.

July 26 is Disability Independence Day, which marks the anniversary of the 1990 signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act. This Act provides protection from employment discrimination as well as better access to goods, services, and communications for people with disabilities.

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month. This observance was launched in 1945 when Congress declared the first week in October as “National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week.” In 1998, the week was extended to a month and renamed. The annual event draws attention to employment barriers that still need to be addressed.

December 3 is International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD). Since 1992, the United Nations’ IDPD has been celebrated globally each year on 3 December to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilize support for the dignity, rights, and well-being of persons with disabilities (PwD). It also seeks to increase awareness of gains to be derived from the integration of PwD in every aspect of political, social, economic, and cultural life. Each year the day focuses on a different issue.

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Islamic Holidays

Note: The dates differ from region to region, as they are calculated based on the New Moon.

January 4 is Eid Milad Un Nabi, an Islamic holiday commemorating the birthday of the prophet Muhammad. During this celebration, homes and mosques are decorated, large parades take place, and those observing the holiday participate in charity events.

May 27 to June 25 (2017) is Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. Each year, Ramadan starts approximately 10 to 11 days earlier than the previous year. During this month, Muslims abstain from food, drink, and other physical needs during from sunrise to sunset. This time of fasting and prayer is designed to purify the soul and reconnect with God.

June 21 (2017) is Laylat al-Qadr, the “Night of Decree.” The first verses of the Quran were revealed to Prophet Muhammad; it is one of the odd nights within the last 10 days of Ramadan. Devotees offer extra prayers (particularly the night prayer) reading the Quran, and those who can afford it spend the night in the mosque, praying.

June 26 (2017) is Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim celebration commemorating the ending of Ramadan. It is a festival of thanksgiving to Allah for enjoying the month of Ramadan. It involves wearing one’s finest clothing, saying prayers, and nurturing understanding of other religions.

September 1 (2017) is Eid al-Adha, the Islamic Feast of Sacrifice, the most important feast of Islam. It occurs approximately 70 days after the end of Ramadan. This year in North America, it starts on September 1. The festival recalls Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son in obedience to Allah, and concludes the Hajj (the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca).

September 21 (2017) to October 19 (2017) is Al-Hijra, Islamic New Year, during the month of Muharram. The Islamic year begins on the first day of Muharram, and is counted from the year of the Hegira (anno Hegirae), the year in which Muhammad emigrated from Mecca to Medina (A.D. July 16, 622). Muharram is one of the most special occasions in the Islamic history and calendar. Firstly, it commemorates the brutal assassination of Hazrat Imam Husayn Ali, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad and his entire family at the battle of Karbala. Secondly, it is also observed as the first month in the Islamic calendar. 

September 29 (2017) is Ashura. For Shi’a Muslims, Ashura marks the climax of the Remembrance of Muharram and commemorates the death of Husayn ibn Ali, the grandson of Muhammad at the Battle of Karbala on the 10th day of Muharram in the year 61 AH. The massacre of Husayn, with a small group of his companions and family members, had a great impact on the religious conscience of Muslims, particularly Shi’a Muslims, who commemorate Husayn’s death with sorrow and passion. Both Sunni and Shi’a Muslims observe this occasion in different manners. Shi’a Muslims dress themselves in black, the color of mourning, and attend the majlis (assemblies) where Shia orators read out and enact the incident of martyrdom of Imam Husayn and his team in detail. The main event takes place on the 10th day of Muharram.

December 1 (2017) is Mawlid al-Nabi, celebrating the Prophet Muhammad’s life. It falls on the 12th or 17th day of the Islamic month of Rabi’ al-awwal. Mawlid al-Nabi is a spiritual and social occasion for the Muslims who celebrate it. It is a memorial day when the Sirah (the life story of the Prophet) is revisited and scholars and singers in the Sufi tradition remind the members of the Ummah about the teachings of the Prophet(s), as well as the successes and challenges of the young Muslim community in Mecca and Medina.

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Jewish Holidays

Note: In the Jewish calendar, a holiday begins at sundown the evening before the date specified.

February 11 (2017) is Tu BiShvat/Tu B’Shevat, the “New Year for Trees.” This minor holiday falls on the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat. Tu B’Shevat is one of four “New Years” mentioned in the Mishnah, and is the new year for the purpose of calculating the age of trees for tithing. See Lev. 19:23-25, which states that fruit from trees may not be eaten during the first three years, and the fourth year’s fruit is for God. Following that, you may eat the fruit. Each tree is considered to have aged one year as of Tu B’Shevat, so if you planted a tree on Shevat 14, it begins its second year the next day. But if you plant a tree two days later, on Shevat 16, it does not reach its second year until the next Tu B’Shevat. There are few customs or observances related to this holiday, one of which is to eat a new fruit on this day, or to eat from the Seven Species (shivat haminim) described in the Bible as being abundant in the land of Israel.

March 12 (2017) is Purim, one of the most joyous and fun holidays on the Jewish calendar. It celebrates the Jewish people’s deliverance from a royal death decree around the fourth century BCE, as told in the Book of Esther. It is celebrated on the 14th of the month of Adar, which is usually in March. The 13th of Adar is the day that Haman chose for the extermination of the Jews, and the day that the Jews battled their enemies for their lives. On the day afterwards, the 14th, they celebrated their survival. The holiday is preceded by a minor fast, the Fast of Esther, which commemorates Esther’s three days of fasting in preparation for her meeting with the king.

April 11 (sunset) to April 18 (sunset) is Pesach, or “Passover.” It commemorates the story of the Exodus, in which the ancient Israelites were freed from slavery in Egypt. Passover begins on the 15th day of the month of Nisan in the Jewish calendar, which is in spring in the Northern Hemisphere and is celebrated for seven or eight days. It is one of the most widely observed Jewish holidays. On the first two days of Passover, a traditional Seder is eaten and the story of deliverance is shared. Pesach is one of the most commonly observed Jewish holidays, even by otherwise non-observant Jews. Probably the most significant observance related to Pesach involves avoiding chametz (leaven) throughout the holiday. This commemorates the fact that the Jews leaving Egypt were in a hurry, and did not have time to let their bread rise. It is also a symbolic way of removing the “puffiness” (arrogance, pride) from our souls.

April 24 (2017) is Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day, which Congress established as the nation’s annual commemoration of the Holocaust. It’s observed as Israel’s day of commemoration for the approximately 6 million Jews and 5 million others who perished in the Holocaust at the hand of Nazi Germany and its accessories, and for the Jewish resistance in that period. In Israel, it is a national memorial day and public holiday.

May is Jewish American Heritage Month, established on April 20, 2006 by former President George W. Bush to recognize the more than 350-year history of Jewish contributions to our culture.

May 30 (2017) to June 1 (2017) is Shavo’ut, the “Festival of Weeks,” the second of three major Jewish festivals that focus on historical and agricultural importance. The other two are Passover and Sukkot. Shavu’ot is not tied to a particular date, but follows Passover by 50 days. Agriculturally, it commemorates the time when the first fruits were harvested and brought to the Temple, and is known as Hag ha-Bikkurim (the Festival of the First Fruits). Historically, it celebrates the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, and is also known as Hag Matan Torateinu (the Festival of the Giving of Our Torah). Work is not permitted during Shavu’ot. It is customary to stay up the entire first night of Shavu’ot and study Torah, then pray as early as possible in the morning. It is also customary to eat a dairy meal at least once during Shavu’ot.

August 1 (2017) Tisha B’Av, is an annual fast day in Judaism, named for the ninth day (Tisha) of the month of Av in the Hebrew calendar, and usually is in July or August. The fast commemorates the destruction of both the First Temple and Second Temple in Jerusalem, which occurred about 655 years apart, but on the same Hebrew calendar date. Tisha B’Av is never observed on Shabbat. If the 9th of Av falls on a Saturday, the fast is postponed until the 10th of Av. Although this holiday is primarily meant to commemorate the destruction of the Temple, it is appropriate to consider, on this day, the many other tragedies of the Jewish people, many of which occurred on this day, most notably the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492 and from England in 1290.

September 21 to 22 (2017) is Rosh Hashana, or Jewish New Year. Also known as the “Days of Renewed Responsibility,” it begins at sunset on day one and ends at nightfall the next. The Jewish New Year is a time to begin introspection, looking back at the mistakes of the past year and planning the changes to make in the new year. No work is permitted on Rosh Hashanah. Much of the day is spent in synagogue, where the regular daily liturgy is somewhat expanded. One popular observance during this holiday is eating apples dipped in honey, a symbol of a wish for a sweet new year. Another is Tashlikh (“casting off”), where Jews walk to flowing water (such as a creek or river) on the afternoon of the first day and empty their pockets into the river, symbolically casting off their sins. Small pieces of bread are commonly put in the pocket to cast off.

October 5 to October 11 is Sukkot, the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles. Beginning at sunset on the first day, this 7-day festival celebrates the harvest and commemorates the Jews’ passage through the wilderness. The Festival of Sukkot begins on Tishri 15, the fifth day after Yom Kippur. It is quite a drastic transition, from one of the most solemn holidays in their year to one of the most joyous. Sukkot is so unreservedly joyful that it is commonly referred to in Jewish prayer and literature as Z’man Simchateinu (in Hebrew), “the Season of our Rejoicing.” No work is permitted on the first and second days of the holiday, but it is on the remaining days. Common observances include building and “dwelling” in a booth, or waving branches and a fruit during services.

September 30 (2017) is Yom Kippur, or the “Day of Atonement” is the holiest day of the year on the Jewish calendar. Its central themes are atonement and repentance. Jews traditionally observe this holy day with a 25-hour period of fasting and intensive prayer, often spending most of the day in synagogue services. Many Jews who do not observe any other Jewish custom will refrain from work, fast and/or attend synagogue services on this day. Yom Kippur is a complete Sabbath: No work can be performed on that day, and it is well-known that you should refrain from eating and drinking (even water) on Yom Kippur. This holy day completes the annual period known in Judaism as the High Holy Days (or sometimes “the Days of Awe”). It is customary to wear white on the holiday, which symbolizes purity and calls to mind the promise that one’s sins shall be made as white as snow (Is. 1:18).

December 13 (sunset) to December 20 (sunset) (2017) is Chanukah (Hanukkah). Also known as the “Festival of Lights,” it is an eight-day Jewish holiday recognizing the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. It is observed by lighting candles on a Menorah—one for each day of the festival. Hanukkah is observed for eight nights and days, starting on the 25th day of Kislev according to the Hebrew calendar, which may occur at any time from late November to late December in the Gregorian calendar. Chanukkah is probably one of the best known Jewish holidays, not because of any great religious significance, but because of its proximity to Christmas. It is not a very important religious holiday. The holiday’s religious significance is far less than that of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Passover, and Shavu’ot. It is roughly equivalent to Purim in significance. Chanukkah is not mentioned in Jewish scripture; the story is related in the book of Maccabees, which Jews do not accept as scripture.

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Hindu Holidays

January 14 (2017) is Makar Sankranti, observed by Hindus at the beginning of the Capricorn period under the sidereal zodiac, and signifying the arrival of warmer days. The festival is also dedicated to the sun god and marks the 6-months’ prosperous period for Hindus known as Uttaarayan. Makara Sankranti is believed to be a time for peace and prosperity. As it’s regarded as important for spiritual practices, people accordingly take a holy dip in rivers — especially Ganga, Yamuna, Godavari, Krishna and Cauvery — which is believed to wash away sins.

January 26 (annual) is Republic Day of India, a day to remember when India’s constitution came into force on Jan. 26, 1950, completing the country’s transition toward becoming an independent republic. This day also coincides with India’s 1930 declaration of independence. Much effort is put towards organizing events and celebrations that occur on Republic Day: large military parades are held in New Delhi and the state capitals; representatives of the Indian Army, Navy and Air Force and traditional dance troupes take part in the parades; awards and medals of bravery are given to the people from the armed forces and also to civilians; helicopters from the armed forces then fly past the parade area showering rose petals on the audience. National, state, and local government offices, post offices, and banks are closed on this date, while stores and other businesses and organizations may be closed, or have reduced opening hours. Republic Day represents the true spirit of the independent India.

February 24 (2017) is Maha Shivaratri, the night of the worship of Lord Shiva. It occurs on the 14th night of the new moon during the dark half of the month of Phalguna, a moonless February night when Hindus offer special prayer to the lord of destruction. Shivratri (In Sanskrit, ‘ratri’ = night) is the night when he is said to have performed the Tandava Nritya, “the dance of primordial creation, preservation and destruction.” The festival is observed for one day and one night only. All through the day, the devotees keep severe fast, chant the sacred Panchakshara mantra “Om Namah Shivaya,” and make offerings of flowers and incense to the Lord amidst ringing of temple bells. They maintain long vigils during the night, keeping awake to listen to stories, hymns and songs. The fast is broken only the next morning, after the nightlong worship.

April 5 (2017) is Rama Navami, a Hindu festival celebrating the birth of the god Rama to King Dasharatha and Queen Kausalya in Ayodhya. Rama, the seventh avatar of Vishnu, is one of the oldest avatars of Lord Vishnu having a human form. The festival is a focal point for moral reflection and being especially charitable to others.

September 20 to 30 (2017) is Shardiya/Maha Navratri, the “Nine Nights” festival. Shardiya Navratri is the most popular and significant Navratri of all Navratris. The name Shardiya Navratri has been taken from Sharad Ritu. All nine days during Navratri are dedicated to nine forms of Goddess Shakti. Shardiya Navratri falls in the month of September or October. The nine-day festivity culminates on the tenth day with Dussehra or Vijaya Dashami. Women, especially in Maharashtra and Gujarat, adorn themselves with 9 different colors, which are allocated to each day of Navratri. The color of the day is decided on the weekday. Each weekday is ruled by one of the planets or Navgrahas, and accordingly, colors are assigned to each day.

November 11 to 15 is Diwali, the “Indian Festival of Lights.” This major Hindu holiday signifies the renewal of life, and the victory of good over evil, and combines a number of festivals to celebrate different gods/goddesses and life events, as described in Hindu tradition. The day before Diwali is spent cleaning the house, shopping, and decorating with flowers. A design is painted in white in front of the door of the house to bring good luck. Lamps are lit for the entire five days beside roads and streams, along edges of roofs, and on window sills to enable Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of prosperity, to find her way to every home. For Jains, Diwali is celebrated as the day that Mahavira attained Nirvana.

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Buddhist Holidays

January 5 is Mahayana New Year, celebrated on the first full-moon day in January by members of the Mahayana Buddhist branch.

February 8 is Nirvana Day, the commemoration of Buddha’s death at the age of 80, when he reached the zenith of Nirvana. February 15 is an alternative date of observance.

February 19- 21 is Losar, the Tibetan Buddhist New Year. Losar, which means new year in Tibetan, is considered the most important holiday in Tibet. The New Year here means a fresh beginning. Non-Tibetans are always welcome at these celebrations. The specific rituals are not exclusive; everyone is invited to join the welcoming of a fresh start.

March 5 is Magha Puja Day, a Buddhist holiday that marks an event early in the Buddha’s teaching life when a group of 1,250 enlightened saints, ordained by the Buddha, gathered to pay their respect to him.

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Other Religious, Traditional, and Informal Holidays

January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month, started by Prevent Blindness to help educate the public on the disease, including risk factors and treatment options. Glaucoma is the second leading source of blindness, accounting for 9%-12% of all cases of total vision loss in the U.S. Since it has no early symptoms, nearly half with the disease are unaware. Glaucoma can affect anyone, but is more likely to develop in African Americans age 40+; seniors, particularly Mexican Americans; and individuals with a family history of glaucoma.

January 16 is National Religious Freedom Day. National Religious Freedom Day commemorates the Virginia General Assembly’s adoption of Thomas Jefferson’s landmark Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom on January 16, 1786. That statute became the basis for the establishment clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and led to freedom of religion for all Americans. Religious Freedom Day is officially proclaimed on January 16 each year by an annual statement by the President of the United States.

January 18 is World Religion Day. This day is observed by those of the Baha’i faith to promote interfaith harmony and understanding. World Religion Day starts sundown of January 17.

January 31 is the birthday anniversary of Guru Har Rai, the seventh Sikh guru. He is remembered for his sensitivity towards the nature and his passion for preserving it. In a way the Sikhs are stepping forward to protect vulnerable Mother Nature to meet the challenge of the present day, as a tribute to their seventh Guru, Sri Guru Har Rai Ji.

February 19-March 5 marks the Chinese New Year. This year is the Year of the Sheep/ Goat. Chinese New Year is the most important holiday in the Chinese lunisolar calendar and is recognized by gift giving, parades, decorations, and feasting. The celebration culminates with the Lantern Festival on March 5.

April is Arab American Heritage Month, marking a time to reflect on the contributions Arab Americans have made to the U.S., and the diverse group of people who make up the nation’s Middle Eastern population. The month of April is a special opportunity to enhance understanding of the nuanced and diverse aspects of Arab American heritage that is often forgotten or intentionally avoided by the media.

April 29 is the Lord’s Supper, a holiday celebrated by Jehovah’s Witnesses. Once a year after sundown on Nisan 14, Jehovah’s Witnesses observe the Lord’s Evening Meal.

May is Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in the United States. The month of May was chosen to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese to the United States on May 7, 1843, and to mark the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869. The majority of the workers who laid the tracks on the project were Chinese immigrants.

May is Older Americans Month, established in 1963 to honor the legacies and contributions of older Americans and to support them as they enter their next stage of life.

August 9 is International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. The focus this year is “Indigenous peoples building alliances: Honoring treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements.”

September is World Alzheimer’s Month, an international campaign to raise awareness for dementia and challenge stigma, launched in 2012.

October 2 is the International Day of Nonviolence, and Gandhi’s Birthday. Mohandas Karamchand “Mahatma” Gandhi is one of the most respected spiritual and political leaders of the twentieth century. Through nonviolent resistance, he helped free India from British rule. The Indian people called Gandhi “Mahatma,” meaning “Great Soul.”

Second Monday in October (October 12) is National Indigenous People’s Day. Beginning in 1992 on this day, drums across the USA and in different time zones coordinate ceremonies and observances at 12 p.m. to celebrate and honor 500 years of North American Indigenous people’s resistance and survival. From that day to the present, Native Americans observe Indigenous People’s Day, not Columbus Day.

October 16 is World Food Day. Since 1979, this worldwide event has sought to increase awareness, understanding, and informed year-round action to alleviate hunger, malnutrition, and poverty.

The last Tuesday in October is Mix It Up at Lunch Day, a national campaign that helps K-12 teachers develop inclusive school communities. Launched by Teaching Tolerance in 2002, Mix It Up at Lunch Day encourages students to move out of their comfort zones and connect with someone new over lunch. It’s a simple act with profound implications: Studies have shown that interactions across group lines can help reduce prejudice, biases, and misperceptions.

November is National Native American Heritage Month, initiated in 1915 by Dr. Arthur C. Parker, a Seneca Indian and Director of the Museum of Arts in Rochester, NY. This special time started as a single day designed to recognize the significant contributions the first Americans made to the establishment and growth of the U.S. Later, in 1990, then-President G.W. Bush approved the designation of the full month of November as what is also known as American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month.

December 1 is World AIDS Day, which was created to commemorate those who have died of AIDS, and to acknowledge the need for a continued commitment to all those affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

December 7 to 11 is Inclusive Schools Week, an annual event sponsored by the Inclusive Schools Network (ISN) celebrating the progress schools have made in providing a supportive, quality education to students who are marginalized due to disability, gender, socioeconomic status, cultural heritage, language preference, and other factors. It provides an important opportunity for educators, students, and parents to discuss what else needs to be done to ensure that their schools continue to improve their ability to successfully educate all children.

December 10 is International Human Rights Day, established by the United Nations in 1948 to commemorate the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

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The Reveal

In making an effort to increase inclusion and appreciate diversity, you’re helping to better our world. Having and learning diverse perspectives makes us more open-minded, well-rounded, successful people. We hope you’ll bookmark this list to return and use it often.

Find an error or have an important date you’d like to see on the diversity calendar? Let us know in the comments. Also, please help advance diversity and share this if it’s useful:

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