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Multicultural Calendar

October is designated as National Disability Employment Awareness Month. Established in 1988 by presidential proclamation, the purpose is to enhance public awareness of those with disabilities and encourage their full integration into the work force.

October also celebrates National Italian American Heritage Month. Every year the president of the United States signs an executive order designating the month in recognition of the many achievements and contributions made to American culture by persons of Italian heritage.

National Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated September 15-October 15.

Read more on our Heritage Month Guide.

1. The Hajj begins at sundown: Islamic

The Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia takes place Oct 2nd through Oct 6th in 2014. One of the Five Pillars of Islam, the Hajj begins on the eighth day of the last month of the Islamic lunar year. A time for reflection and celebration, more than two million Muslims from around the world gather together to celebrate their faith. All Muslims who are able are required to make the pilgrimage at least once in their lifetime. At Mecca, the pilgrims perform many rituals, including walking seven times around the sacred shrine of Kaaba. The culmination of the Hajj is the three-day festival of Eid al-Adha (The Feast of Sacrifice), the most important feast of the Muslim calendar. Since Islamic holidays are based on the lunar calendar, the Hajj may occur twice in the same Gregorian year. 

2. International Day of Non-Violence: United Nations

The International Day of Non-Violence is observed on the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, leader of the Indian independence movement and pioneer in the philosophy and strategy of non-violence. This day, established in 2007 by a resolution of the General Assembly, is an occasion to "disseminate the message of non-violence … through education and public awareness" and to reaffirm the desire “to secure a culture of peace, tolerance, understanding and non-violence.” In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, "Non-violence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man."

3-4. Yom Kippur: Jewish

Yom Kippur, the holiest Jewish holiday, begins at sundown on the 3rd and continues to sundown the following day. The ten days from Rosh Hashanah (Sept 24) to Yom Kippur are known as the Days of Awe or the Days of Repentance. During this time Jews are to remind themselves of their sins and seek forgiveness for their wrongdoings. The last service of Yom Kippur, the Closing, occurs as the sun begins to set. Initially, the "closing" pertained to the gates of the Temple. The deeper meaning, however, is that the Book of Life is sealed for the ensuing year. Thus, freed from sin by repentance and sealed in the Book of Life, the worshippers turn from the past to the future. Many Jews observe Yom Kippur by taking no food or water from sundown the day before through sundown the following day. It is also common for Jews not to work on the night before and the day of Yom Kippur. Appropriate greetings include "May you be sealed in the book of life for a good year" and "Good yuntef."

3-6. Eid al-Adha (The Feast of Sacrifice): Islamic

The three-day festival begins at sundown on October 3 and comes at the culmination of the Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca, one of the Five Pillars of Islam. Mecca and Medina, both in Saudi Arabia, are Islam's two holiest sites. This religious observance commemorates the story of Abraham and Ishmail as told in the Qur'an. God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his only son as a proof of his faith. Before Abraham completed the sacrifice, God stopped him and provided a ram for sacrifice in place of Ishmail. The Eid al-Adha celebration commences with a congregational prayer and sermon, or khutba, at the mosque. This is followed by visiting friends and relatives, feasting, and other festive activities. Gift-giving is common during this three-day festival, as is the sharing of sweets and desserts. Muslims do not drink alcoholic beverages. Eid Mubarak and "Happy Eid" are common greetings.

3. John Ross (1790-1866): American Indian (Cherokee)

Ross served as chief of the Cherokee nation from 1827, when the tribe established a constitutional government, to his death. After trying unsuccessfully to prevent the forced removal of his people from their lands in the Southeast, he led the Cherokee on their journey over the "Trail of Tears" to Oklahoma and devoted himself to maintaining the unity of the resettled people.

9. Mary Shadd Cary (1823-1893): African American, Canadian

Mary Shadd Cary, journalist and antislavery advocate, was born to free Black parents in Delaware. After the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850, she went to Canada and started a newspaper called The Provincial Freeman, the first antislavery newspaper in western Canada.

Sukkoth (Oct 9-15): Jewish

Sukkoth, a holiday that lasts seven days, is named for the huts that are erected and hung with fruits and vegetables to recall the temporary field dwellings that Hebrew farmers traditionally used during harvest time. Sukkoth, which ends on the evening of October 15 (also known as Hoshanah Rabbah), is followed by Sh'mini Atzeret, which celebrates the end of the holiday season that began with Rosh Hashanah. Many observant Jews build a succoth, a three-sided wooden hut with a ceiling, which is decorated with fall fruits and vegetables, as well as Jewish artifacts, such as the menorah. Meals are eaten in the succoth and religious services are also held there. Giving someone something to decorate a succoth is an appropriate gift.

Leif Ericsson Day: United States

Proclaimed by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964, this holiday, honors the Icelandic explorer Leif Ericsson, who is believed to be the first European to land on North American soil. Leif Ericsson (980?–1025?) was the son of explorer Erik the Red, who established the first settlement in Greenland. Their adventures are chronicled in the twelfth- and thirteenth-century Icelandic sagas Grænlendinga Saga (the "Greenlanders' Saga") and Eiriks Saga ("Erik's Saga"). According to the older and more reliable Grænlendinga Saga, Ericsson learned of a new land from the Icelandic sea captain Bjarni Herjólfsson, who had sighted it to the west years earlier when driven off course by a storm on his way from Iceland to Greenland. In about A.D. 1000, Ericsson and his crew of thirty-five men sailed west from Greenland to retrace Herjólfsson's course in reverse. They made several landings along the North American coast, finally wintering in a spot where they discovered wild grapes growing, prompting Ericsson to name the land "Vinland." Although Ericsson made no maps of his voyage, historians believe he landed first on the southern coast of Baffin Island, then Labrador, and, finally, northern Newfoundland, or Vinland. In the early 1960s, archaeologists found ruins of an old Norse settlement at L'Anse aux Meadows in northern Newfoundland. However, some scholars believe Vinland was actually Cape Cod or somewhere even farther to the south. Almost five hundred years would pass before another European landed in the Americas, when Columbus made his voyage of exploration.

11. National Coming Out Day/March on Washington (1987): Gay, Lesbian

On this day, October 11, the largest gay and lesbian gathering of its time—some estimate as many as 200,000–600,000 people—took place to protest anti-gay discrimination and demand a stronger federal government response to the AIDS crisis.

International Day of the Girl Child: United Nations

On December 19, 2011, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution declaring October 11 as the International Day of the Girl Child to be observed every year in recognition of the rights of girls and to raise awareness of the situation of girls around the world.

12. Day of Indigenous Resistance: Venezuela

In 2002, under President Hugo Chávez, Venezuela changed their Día de la Raza holiday to Día de la Resistencia Indígena, or Day of Indigenous Resistance, to commemorate the resistance of the indigenous people to Columbus and European settlement. Note: October 12 has traditionally been celebrated as Día de la Raza (Columbus Day) in much of Latin America.

Day of the Meeting of Cultures: Costa Rica.  

In 1994, Costa Rica changed their official holiday from Día de la Raza to Día del Encuentro de las Culturas, or Day of the Meeting of Cultures, to emphasize the country’s diverse mix of African, American, Asian, European, and Latin American cultures.

13. Columbus Day observed: United States 

This is the day set aside for observing the anniversary of the landing of Christopher Columbus in the New World. Columbus Day is a national holiday that has come to be especially important to Italian Americans. At annual Italian American get-togethers, there are speeches by celebrities, and citizens of Italian heritage are honored for their rich contributions to community life.

Day of Respect for Cultural Diversity: Argentina

Celebrated on the second Monday in October, this holiday replaces the former Día de la Raza holiday observed on October 12. It is a day to promote historical reflection and intercultural dialogue on the rights of indigenous peoples.

Thanksgiving Day: Canada

This day is observed as a harvest festival and an occasion for families to get together for visiting and traditional foods.

16. Eugene O'Neill (1888-1953): Irish American

The playwright O'Neill expanded the range of American drama with his tragedies focusing on ordinary people and his expressionistic experimental plays.

23. Diwali: Hindu, Jain

One of the most important festivals of the year for Hindus, it lasts for five days and combines a number of festivals to celebrate different gods and goddesses and events in their lives as described in Hindu tradition. 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. Appropriate greetings for all Hindu holidays include "God bless you with prosperity and happiness" or "I wish you happiness and prosperity."

24. United Nations Day: United Nations 

This day commemorates the founding of the United Nations in 1945. The term United Nations was coined by President Franklin D. Roosevelt during World War II to describe the Allied countries that were at war with the Axis countries. Five of those Allied countries—France, the Republic of China, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States—were permanent members of the Security Council that ratified the charter bringing the United Nations into existence.

29. Baruj Benacerraf (1920-2011): Jewish Venezuelan American

Benacerraf, an immunogeneticist, shared the 1980 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the groundbreaking discovery of genes that help the immune system distinguish between its own cells and foreign bodies, a discovery that led to work exploring why autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis and lupus affect some people and not others. His work also addressed such important questions as why cancer cells are destroyed in some people but grow into tumors in others. Benacerraf discovered the genetic basis of immune response when he realized that the major histocompatibility complex (MHC), the collection of genes that allow the body to fight off infection, is controlled by a single gene within it, which he called the immune response gene. His experiments demonstrated for the first time that immune response is hereditary; thus a person's susceptibility to certain autoimmune diseases is likewise determined by heredity. His research also led him to discover the immune response genes that govern the rejection of tissue and organ transplants.

30. Imam W[arith] D[een] Mohammed (born Wallace Dean Muhammad) (1933-2008): African American

Imam W.D. Mohammed succeeded his father Elijah Muhammad as leader of the Nation of Islam upon his father's death in 1975, and transformed the Nation of Islam from a Black separatist organization to a mainstream Islamic group open to Muslims of all races and emphasizing racial and religious tolerance. In 1976 he renamed the Nation of Islam the "World Community of Al-Islam in the West", then changed the name in 1980 to the "American Muslim Mission" and again in the 1990s to the "Muslim American Community." On February 6, 1992, Imam Mohammed was the first Muslim to deliver the traditional Invocation opening the U.S. Senate, and he participated in both of the inaugural prayer services of President William J. Clinton.

31. Halloween: United Kingdom, United States

This festival takes its name from All Hallows Eve (the eve of the feast of All Saints), originating among the Celts of Britain and Ireland, for whom October 31 was new year's eve. On this night it was believed that the souls of the dead revisited their earthly homes, and huge bonfires were set to frighten away evil spirits. With the rise of Christianity, the autumn festival came to be associated with All Saints Day. Secular Halloween customs reflect its pagan origins and were introduced to the United States by immigrants, especially the Irish, in the nineteenth century. Today the most widely observed Halloween custom is a benign version of "trick or treat," in which costumed children go from door to door collecting sweets or money for UNICEF.

31. Samhain (sow-in): Pagan and Wiccan

Samhain, the most important of the Sabbats, marks the end of the third and final harvest in the Wheel of the Year. It is a time to remember the dead and to celebrate the cycle of life. Since the new Celtic year began at dusk on October 31, the Night of Samhain (Oidhche Shamhna), or November Eve, was the most important part of the ancient Celtic holiday. Oidhche Shamhna was a holy time when it was believed that the veil between the mortal world and the otherworld was at its thinnest during the gap in time between the old and new years. The newly established Christian religion found many of the Celtic beliefs to be compatible with their own so that Christians incorporated Pagan customs into their holidays. Samhain was given a Christian blessing in A.D. 837, at which time November 1 was designated the Feast of All Saints, or Hallow Tide, and Oidhche Shamhna became Hallow E'en.


The entries for this calendar have been adapted from the Diversity Calendar (TM). Used with permission.

For more about the calendar, please visit here.

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