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Multicultural Calendar

April 2014 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. A special celebration was hosted by the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin, Texas. The Civil Rights law was passed during the Lyndon B. Johnson administration. To review the speeches, the program and photos, visit

Read more about heritage months here.

1. April Fools' Day: International

Sometimes called All Fools' Day, this day can find  people playing all kinds of practical jokes and pranks on one another. Some say this custom started in France in 1582 with the change to the Gregorian calendar. New Year's Day moved from March 25 to January 1 and anyone who forgot or was not aware of the change were called April fools.

Lavina Washines (1940-2011): American Indian (Yakama)

A member of the Rock Creek band of the Yakima Nation, Lavina Washines was first elected to the tribal council in 1985. In 2006, she became the first woman to fulfill the role of chair of the Yakama Nation leading the tribe's 10,000 members and its businesses including a sawmill and a casino. She continued in this role until 2008. She dedicated her life to keeping Yakama traditions alive and spoke several Yakama dialects. She also defended the tribe's sovereignty and treaty rights. Although she stepped down as chair, she continued as a member of the tribal council until her death. The Yakama Nation changed the spelling if its name from Yakima to Yakama in 1994, which is closer to the pronunciation in their native language.

4. Respect for Ancestors Day (Thanh Minh): Vietnam

Similar to a day in all other Asian cultures, this day is set aside to pay respects to one's ancestors by visiting and decorating their graves.

Peace and Reconciliation Day: Angola

On April 4, 2002, decades of civil war in Angola ended with the signing of a peace agreement between the Angolan government headed by the political party known as the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), and the last opposing political party, the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA). Although the two parties fought alongside each in Angola's war for independence against Portugal, after independence came in 1975, the leader of the MPLA became the first president which resulted in UNITA fighting against MPLA in the civil war that finally ended in 2002.   

6. Tartan Day: United States

In 1998, an act of the U.S. Congress established Tartan Day to recognize the role Scottish Americans have played in the founding of the nation as well as to acknowledge their many contributions. For example, John Witherspoon served in the Continental Congress, signed the Declaration of Independence, and served as president of the College of New Jersey, which later became Princeton University. Alexander Hamilton served as the nation's first secretary of the treasury and led the Federalist Party. Other Scottish Americans include Andrew Carnegie, a great industrialist and philanthropist; Woodrow Wilson, the twenty-eighth president of the United States; Sir Alexander Fleming, a bacteriologist who discovered penicillin; Grace Murray Hopper, co-inventor of the computer language COBOL; and Ginger Rogers, the famous actress, dancer and singer. 

7. François Dominique Toussaint-Louverture (c. 1743-1803): Haitian.

Born a slave on the island of Saint-Domingue, a French colony (what we know as Haiti), Toussaint-Louverture rose to become a very capable military and political leader of his country's independence movement. Marshalling an army of insurgent slaves, the guerilla leader took the side of the French Republic in 1793 when other rebel leaders supported Spain's war against France. After being appointed lieutenant governor of the colony, he drove out the Spanish and the British. In 1801, he defied Napoleon's orders and freed the slaves on the island establishing an independent government making himself its leader. But he underestimated the French; they invaded the island, removed him from office and imprisoned him in Switzerland where he died as a captive on this date in 1803.

Day of Remembrance of the Victims of the Rwanda Genocide: United Nations.  

This day remembers the deaths of almost a million Tutsis and moderate Hutus who were murdered by Hutu extremists in the Rwandan Genocide of 1994. In 1993, ethnic tensions between the Hutu and the Tutsi tribes rose to the point that the United Nations put in place the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) sending peacekeeping forces to help implement a peace agreement designed to end the Rwandan Civil War. However, on April 6, 1994, the Rwandan president, Juvénal Habyarimana, and the Burundian president, Cyprien Ntaryamira, were both assassinated turning the unstable peace into a genocide. Five years later, the United Nations acknowledged that the international community had not risen to the challenge of preventing the Rwandan genocide. Begun in 2004, the tenth anniversary of the genocide, this observance attracts people from all over the world who light candles and observe a moment of silence for the nearly one million victims.    

8. Buddha's Birth (c. 563-483 B.C.E.): Buddhist

An Indian prince known Siddhartha Gautama left his family when he was 29 years old to seek the truth of life; he became known as Buddha, or the "enlightened one." He attained the enlightenment he sought at a place now called Buddha Gaya or Bodh Gaya after years of wandering, meditation, and self-denial. The belief system he founded spread throughout central and Southeast Asia, China, Japan, and Korea, and has also attracted followers in the West. This day is celebrated in the Mahãyãna Buddhist tradition based on the Japanese Buddhist calendar.

Ramanavami (Birthday of Rama): Hindu  

The story of Rama, one of the incarnations of the god Vishnu, is told in the Ramayana, one of the great epic poems of Hinduism. Rama is a holiday observed with sanctity and fasting, and celebrated in literature, music, and art throughout India and Southeast Asia. Temples are decorated and people recite parts of the Ramayana at their homes.

9. Valor Day: Philippines

The day commemorates the forced march to a prison camp of 70,000 Americans and Filipinos captured on Bataan in 1942 by the Japanese. The march resulted in the deaths of 7,000 to 10,000; only 54,000 prisoners survived the march while the rest escaped into the jungle.

11. Jane Bolin (1908-2007): African American

Jane Bolin, a pioneer for Black women in the legal field, became a lawyer and judge. In 1928, Bolin graduated with honors from Wellesley College; she was one of only two Black students in her class. She went on to study law, and in 1931 was the first Black woman to graduate from Yale Law School. After graduating, Bolin joined the New York Bar Association becoming the first Black woman to do so. In 1939, at the age of thirty-one, Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia appointed her a judge of the Domestic Relations Court (later called Family Court). This made Bolin the first Black female judge in the country. Bolin spent 40 years on the bench working to end segregation in publicly-funded child placement agencies as well as in the practice of assigning probation officers to cases based on race and religion. She was an activist for children's rights and education and participated on many boards on their behalf.

14. Passover, begins at sundown and continues for eight days: Jewish

This eight-day holiday celebrates the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. Moses, an Israelite born into slavery, was raised in the Pharaoh's household, and was later banished as a young man for defending his people. He returned to Egypt and confronted the Pharaoh in the name of God, demanding freedom for his people. The Pharaoh did not respond until after the tenth plague sent by God, which killed the first son of every Egyptian family, including the son of the Pharaoh. To protect themselves from the angel of death, the Israelites marked their doors to identify their homes so that they would be passed by. Moses led the Israelites through the desert for 40 years to the land of Canaan, which was later called Palestine. The Passover celebration is a spring festival commemorating freedom and new life. It begins in the evening with a Seder, a meal characterized by the reading of the story of Passover. The menu includes traditional foods, one of which is matzoh, or unleavened bread, reminding people of the unleavened bread eaten by the Israelites in the desert.

17. Holy Thursday: Coptic Orthodox Christian, Eastern Orthodox Christian. Maundy Thursday: Christian

Bond was a socially conscious architect and educator. His architectural achievements include the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, and the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute in Alabama. He was also professor of architecture at Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture and later became dean of the School of Architecture and Environmental Studies at City College. He was working on the design of the museum for the National September 11 Memorial and Museum at the site of the World Trade Center when he died on this date.

18. Good Friday: Christian. Holy Friday: Coptic Orthodox Christian, Eastern Orthodox Christian

This is the day these faith groups commemorate Jesus' crucifixion.

20. Easter: Christian

Considered the holiest day for Christians, Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus after he was crucified and died in Jerusalem. Jesus' suffering and death on the cross, often called the "passion," followed by his resurrection, is central to Christian faith. Easter culminates the penitential period that starts with Ash Wednesday. Easter is a joyous holiday for Christians because it marks the fulfillment of the Biblical prophecy of the coming of the Messiah. In addition to its religious significance, Easter is also celebrated as a spring holiday with themes of rebirth, gathering together with family and friends, and sharing special foods.

Easter: Coptic Orthodox Christian, Eastern Orthodox Christian.

In the Orthodox church, the celebration of Easter begins just before midnight on Holy Saturday with the lighting of candles as part of the Easter midnight mass.

22. Earth Day: International

Learn more about Earth Day in this month's Diversity Quiz

24. Gathering of Nations Powwow: American Indian

This largest powwow in North America is a three-day event held every year at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. More than five hundred tribes from Canada and the United States participate in this celebration of American Indian culture. Along with drum groups, ceremonial singing, chanting, and dancing in traditional dress, there are exhibitions of American Indian artifacts and sales of authentic crafts. The Gathering of Nations organization's goals are to promote the traditions and culture of the American Indian people in a positive manner and to dispel stereotypes created about the Indian people.

27. Holocaust Memorial Day (Yom Hashoah): Jewish

This day, designated by Israel's Knesset, or Parliament, is a memorial to the 6 million Jews killed by the Nazis in their program of mass extermination of all Jews in Germany and the countries under German occupation. Building on long-standing anti-Semitism, this program began with arrests and imprisonment of Jews in the early 1930s and extended into the 1940s forcing Jews into slave labor camps and extermination in death camps such as Treblinka, Sobibor, and Auschwitz. In Israel, if Yom Hashoah falls on Friday it is observed on Thursday, and if it falls on Sunday it is observed on Monday.

30. Beltaine begins at sundown: Pagan and Wiccan  

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