The United States is rich with diversity, which is reflected in the observances celebrated by its various cultures and populations. Knowledge of the following diversity holidays and celebrations can enhance your workplace diversity and inclusion efforts. (Please note: All dates are for 2011.)
January 6 is Epiphany, a holiday recognizing the visit of the three wise men to the baby Jesus twelve days after his birth. The holiday is observed by both Eastern and Western churches.
January 14 is Bikarami Sankrant, the Hindu New Year celebrated mostly in South India. There is another Hindu New Year—Diwali—that is more popularly celebrated globally between mid-October and mid-November.
January 16 is World Religion Day. This day is observed by the Baha’is to promote interfaith harmony and understanding.
Third Monday in January is Martin Luther King Day, commemorating the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr., who was born two days earlier in 1929. King was the recipient of the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize, and an activist for non-violent social change until his assassination in 1968.
January 18-25 is the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. During the week, Christians pray for unity between all churches of the Christian faith.
January 19-21 is Mahayana New Year celebrated on the first full-moon day in January by members of the Mahayana Buddhist branch.
January 20 is Tu B’shvat, a Jewish holiday recognizing “The New Year for the Trees.” It is celebrated on the fifteenth day of the Hebrew month of Shevat. In Israel, the flowering of the almond tree usually coincides with this holiday, which is observed by planting trees and eating dried fruits and nuts.
January 26 is Republic Day of India. This day recognizes when the Constitution of India came into law in 1950, replacing the Government of India Act of 1935. This day also coincides with India's 1930 declaration of independence.
January 31 is the birthday of Guru Har Rai, the seventh Sikh guru.
February is Black History Month in the United States and Canada. Since 1976, the month has been designated to remember important people and events of the African Diaspora
February 3 marks the start of the Asian Lunar New Year, celebrated by many Asian ethnic groups including Chinese, Vietnamese and Koreans. This year is the Year of the Rabbit.
February 3 - February 18 marks the Chinese New Year. This year is the Year of the Rabbit. 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 February 18.
February 4 is Ramanavami, a Hindu festival commemorating the birth of Lord Rama—a popular deity in Hinduism. People celebrate the holiday by sharing stories and visiting temples.
February 15 is Nirvana Day, the commemoration of Buddha’s death when he reached the zenith of Nirvana, at the age of 80.
February 15 is also 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.
February 19 is Magha Puja Day is 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 respects to him.
February 21 is President’s Day observed in the United States to honor Presidents Washington and Lincoln, and now serves as a reminder of the contribution of all U.S. presidents.
February 26 – March 1 are Intercalary Days for people of the Baha’i faith. At this time, days are added to the Baha’i calendar to maintain their solar calendar. Intercalary days are observed with gift-giving, special acts of charity, and preparation for the fasting that precedes the new year.
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 is also National Mental Retardation Awareness Month, which was established to increase awareness and understanding of issues affecting people with mental retardation and other 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 3 is Mahashivratri, a Hindu holiday that honors Shiva, one of the Hindu deities.
March 5-8 is Losar, the Tibetan Buddhist New Year. Losar, which means “new year” in Tibetan, is considered the most important holiday in Tibet.
March 7 is the beginning of Lent in the Christian faith. Lent, which is observed during the seven weeks prior to Easter, is a time of reflection and preparation for the Holy Week and is observed by fasting, charitable giving and worshipping.
March 8 is International Women’s Day. First observed in 1911 in Germany, it has now become a major global celebration honoring women’s economic, political and social achievements.
March 9 is Ash Wednesday, observed by Christians to mark the beginning of the 40-day season of Lent. As a display of atonement, ashes are marked on worshippers.
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 17 is St. Patrick’s Day, a holiday started in Ireland to recognize St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland who brought Christianity to the country in the early days of the faith.
March 19 – 20 is Holi, a Hindu and Sikh spring religious festival observed in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka, along with other countries that have large Hindu and Sikh populations. It is celebrated by people throwing colored powder and water at each other. Bonfires are lit the day before in the memory of the miraculous escape that young Prahlad accomplished when Demoness Holika carried him into the fire.
March 20 is Purim, a Jewish celebration that marks the time when the Jewish community living in Persia was saved from genocide. According to the Book of Esther, King Ahasuerus’s political advisor planned to have all the Jews killed; however, his plot was foiled when Esther, one of the king’s wives, revealed her Jewish identity. On Purim, Jewish people give out charity and share food with friends.
April is Celebrate Diversity Month, 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.
April 17 is Palm Sunday, a holiday recognized by Christians to commemorate the entry of Jesus in Jerusalem. It is the last Sunday of Lent and the beginning of the Holy Week.
April 19-26 is Passover, a Jewish holiday celebrated each spring in remembrance of the Jews’ deliverance out of slavy in Egypt in 1300 B.C. On the first two days of Passover, a traditional Seder is eaten and the story of deliverance is passed down. Usually, bread and leavened food are not consumed during the eight days.
April 22 is Good Friday, celebrated by Christians to commemorate the execution of Jesus by crucifixion and is recognized on the Friday before Easter.
April 24 is Easter, a holiday celebrated by Christians to recognize the resurrection of Jesus, his return from death after the crucifixion. It is considered to be the most important Christian holiday.
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 were Chinese immigrants.
May is also Older Americans Month, established in 1963 to honor the legacies and contributions of older Americans and support them as they enter their next stage of life.
May 1-7 is Flexible Work Arrangement Week, an effort to promote experimentation with rearranged work schedules and locations outside of the conventional office setting.
May 21 is World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development, a day set aside by the United Nations as an opportunity to deepen our understanding of the values of cultural diversity and to learn to live together better.
June is Gay and Lesbian Pride Month, meant to recognize the impact that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals have had on the world. Gay, lesbian and bisexual groups celebrate this special time with pride parades, picnics, parties, memorials for those lost to hate crimes as well as HIV and AIDS and other group gathering events that attract thousands upon thousands of individuals. The last Sunday in June is Gay Pride Day.
June 14 is Flag Day in the United States. This day is observed to celebrate the history and the symbolism of the American flag.
June 15 is Native American Citizenship Day. This observance commemorates the day in 1924 when the United States Congress passed legislation recognizing the citizenship of Native Americans.
On June 16, Sikhs observe the Martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev. Guru Arjan Dev was the fifth Sikh guru and the first Sikh martyr.
June 19 is Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day. It 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 they were free, two months after the end of the Civil War. June 19th, therefore, became the day of emancipation for thousands of African Americans.
June 23 is Corpus Christi, a Catholic celebration in honor of the Eucharist.
The last Sunday in June is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) Pride Day in the United States.
On July 7, Tisha B’ Av, an annual fasting day, is observed by the Jewish to commemorate the tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people over the years coincidentally on this day.
July 7 is also Lailat Ul Mairaj. On this day, Muslims celebrate Prophet Muhammad’s night journey from Makkah to Jerusalem and his ascension to heaven.
On July 9, the Martyrdom of the Bab, Baha'is observe the anniversary of the Bab's execution in Tabriz, Iran, in 1850.
July 15 is Lailat al Bara’t, celebrated as the night of forgiveness by the Muslims.
July 15 is also Asala–Dharma Day, which celebrates the anniversary of the start of the Buddha’s teaching.
July 23 is the Birthday of Haile Selassie I, the Emperor of Ethiopia who the Rastafarians considered to be God and their Savior.
July 24 is Pioneer Day; observed by the Mormons to commemorate the arrival in 1847 of the first Latter Day Saints pioneer in Salt Lake Valley.
August 1 marks the beginning of Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting. Muslims abstain from eating, drinking and sexual activity from dawn until sunset, in efforts to teach Muslim patience, modesty and spirituality. This year, the observance lasts until August 30th.
August 6 is Transfiguration, a holiday recognized by Orthodox Christians to celebrate when Jesus became radiant, and communed with Moses and Elijah on Mount Tabor. To celebrate, adherents have a feast.
August 13 is Raksha Bandhan a Hindu holiday commemorating the loving kinship between a brother and a sister. "Raksha" means 'protection' in Hindi, and symbolizes the longing a sister has to be protected by her brother. During the celebration, a sister ties a string around her brother's (or brother-figure’s) wrist, and asks him to protect her. The brother usually gives the sister a gift and agrees to protect her for life.
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.
August 22 is Janmashtami, a Hindu holiday recognizing Krishna’s birthday. Krishna is the highest god in the Hindu faith.
August 31 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 2 is Paryushana, the most revered Jain festival comprising eight or ten days of fasting and repentance.
September 11 is the Ethiopian New Year. Rastafarians celebrate the New Year on this date and believe that Ethiopia is their spiritual home, a place where they desire to return.
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 29 is Rosh Hashanah, a holiday recognizing the Jewish New Year. It is the first of the Jewish High Holy Days, and is marked by abstinence, prayer, repentance and rest.
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.
October 8 is Yom Kippur. This holiday is the holiest day on the Jewish calendar, and is a day of atonement marked by fasting and ceremonial repentance.
October 11 is National Coming Out Day. For those that identify as LGBT, this day is to celebrate coming out and recognition of the 1987 march on Washington for gay and lesbian equality.
Second Monday in October is National Indigenous People’s Day to recognize 500 years of resistance and the continued existence of North American Indigenous people. This is celebrated in lieu of Columbus Day.
October 13 – October 19 is the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. It is a time of remembrance of the fragile tabernacles that Israelites lived in as they wandered the wilderness for 40 years. The first day of the holiday is celebrated with prayers and special meals.
October 20 is Birth of the Bab, a holiday celebrated by the Baha'i recognizing the birth of the founder of the Baha'i faith.
November is National American Indian Heritage Month, which celebrates the history and contributions of American Indians.
November 6 marks the beginning of Dussera (Dasera), a ten-day festival celebrated by Hindus to recognize Rama's victory over evil.
November 11 is Veterans Day, an annual U.S., an annual U.S. federal holiday honoring military veterans. The date is also celebrated as Armistice Day or Remembrance Day in other parts of the world and commemorates the ending of the First World War in 1918.
November 12 is the Birth of Baha’u’llah, the day members of the Baha’i faith celebrate the birthday of the founder of the Baha’i religion.
November 20 is Transgender Day of Remembrance, established in 1998 to memorialize those who have been killed as a result of transphobia and raise awareness of the continued violence endured by the transgender community.
November 20 is also Feast of Christ the King, the last holy Sunday in the western liturgical calendar. This day is observed by the Roman Catholic Church as well as many Anglicans, Lutherans, and other Mainline Protestants.
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 5 is Ashura, a holiday recognized by Muslims to mark the martyrdom of Hussain. It also commemorates that day Noah left the ark, and when Moses was saved from the Egyptians by God.
December 8 is Bodhi Day, a holiday observed by Buddhists to commemorate Gautama’s enlightenment under the Bodhi tree at Bodhgaya, India.
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.
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.
December 21 – December 28 is 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 the lighting of candles on a Menorah—one for each day of the festival.
December 25 is Christmas, the day associated with Jesus’ birth for Christians. The day is recognized by a growing number of non-Christians, and includes gift giving, music, decorations, Christmas trees, and associations with Santa Claus.
December 26 – January 1 is Kwanzaa, an African American holiday started by Maulana Karenga in 1966 to celebrate universal African-American heritage. It is observed by lighting candles to represent each of the holiday’s seven principles, libations, feasting and gift giving.