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Multicultural Calendar

1. Islamic Republic Day: Iran

Upon Iran’s victory in the Islamic Revolution on February 11, 1979, a two-day referendum was planned in late March. This event involved the historic establishment of the Islamic Republic system due to a voting. On April 1, 1979 Iran officially became an Islamic Republic.]

3. Makha Bucha Day: Thailand

Thailand’s national holiday celebrates two events: the coming together of 1,250 monks to pay homage to the Buddha and the Buddha's first sermon to his disciples. At sunset, Thai Buddhists gather in their local temples to participate in candlelight processions to express appreciation for the order of monks founded by the Buddha and for the Three Jewels—the Buddha, the Dharma (the law of karma and rebirth) and the Sangha (the Buddhist community).

4. Passover (first day of 8-day observance): Jewish

Passover is observed for eight days and celebrates the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. Moses, an Israelite born into slavery was raised in the Pharaoh's household. Later he was banished as a young man for defending his people, returned to Egypt and confronted the Pharaoh in the name of God, demanding freedom for his people. The Pharaoh capitulated only after God sent ten plagues, the last of which killed the first son of every Egyptian family, including that of the Pharaoh. The Israelites marked their doors to identify their homes for the angel of death, who passed over and spared them. Moses then led the Israelites through the desert for 40 years until they came to the land of Canaan, later called Palestine. The celebration of Passover, a spring festival commemorating freedom and new life, begins the previous evening with a Seder, a meal during which the story of Passover is read from the Haggadah. The menu includes a number of traditional foods such as matzoh, or unleavened bread, which recalls the unleavened bread eaten by the Israelites in the desert. Before arranging any event involving food, check to see if invitees are following a special Passover diet, particularly whether they are refraining from eating any bread or other baked goods. "Have a happy holiday" is an appropriate greeting.

5. Easter: Christian

This holy day celebrates the resurrection of Jesus after he was crucified and died in Jerusalem. It is Jesus' suffering and death on the cross, often referred to as the "passion," followed by his resurrection that is central to Christian faith. Easter culminates the penitential period that starts with Ash Wednesday. Palm Sunday, which marks the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem, occurs one week before Easter. Easter is a joyous holiday, since it marks for Christians 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. Jehovah's Witnesses commemorate the memorial of Christ's death rather than Jesus' resurrection.

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

Siddhartha Gautama, who became known as Buddha, or "enlightened one," was an Indian prince who left his family at the age of 29 to seek the truth of life. After years of wandering, meditation, and self-denial, he attained the enlightenment he sought at a place now called Buddha Gayaor Bodh Gaya. The religion he founded spread throughout central and Southeast Asia, China, Japan, and Korea, and has also attracted followers in the West. It is celebrated on this day in the Mahãyãna Buddhist tradition based on the Japanese Buddhist calendar."Happy Buddha's Birthday" is a common greeting.

9. Valor Day: Philippines

This marks the anniversary of the forced march to a prison camp of 70,000 Americans and Filipinos captured on Bataan in 1942 by the Japanese. Only 54,000 prisoners survived the march; 7,000–10,000 died and the rest escaped into the jungle.

11. Anniversary of the Battle of Rivas (Juan Santamaría Day): Costa Rica

This commemorates the decisive battle in 1856 when Costa Ricans were victorious against American confederate and mercenary, William Walker, who was attempting to annex Costa Rica and other Central American countries to the Southern Confederacy. The Costa Ricans chased Walker and his mercenaries back across the border into Nicaragua to the town of Rivas, where soldier Juan Santamaría volunteered to torch the wooden fort where Walker and his men were staying. Santamaría was mortally wounded and is now honored as Costa Rica's national hero. This battle marked the beginning of the end for Walker, who abandoned Central America in 1857.

13. New Year: Cambodia

This three-day festival, known as Chaul Chnam Thmey in Khmer, is one of the most important holidays of the year. It celebrates the end of the harvest season and the beginning of the solar new year. On the first day of the festival, people light candles and burn sticks of incense at shrines and pay homage to Buddha. On the second day, everyone contributes to charity and pays respects to their ancestors. The third day is spent cleansing the Buddhist statues with perfumed water to bring longevity, good luck, and prosperity. A special new year’s dish is kralan, a cake made from steamed rice mixed with beans or peas, grated coconut, and coconut milk, which is roasted inside a bamboo stick. People spend their time dancing and playing new year’s games.

Songkran Festival: Laos, Thailand

This three-day festival celebrates the traditional New Year in Laos and Thailand and is the most important festival of the year. Also known as the Water Festival, Songkran is a time when fragrant water is used to cleanse images of Buddha to bring good luck and prosperity for the new year, and young people pour scented water over the hands of their parents and elders to show respect. Nowadays it has evolved into much merrymaking and splashing of water on friends and relatives as well. People also carry sand into Buddhist temple compounds to build small stupas that they decorate with colorful flags. Originally a moveable holiday, Songkran is now celebrated every year from April 13 to April 15.

Thingyan Festival: Myanmar

This is the New Year Water Festival, celebrated with music, singing and dancing, and general merrymaking as people douse each other with water during the four days leading up to the New Year. Traditionally in this Buddhist festival, people sprinkled scented water in a silver bowl using tree sprigs to “wash away” one’s sins of the previous year. On the eve of Thingyan, offerings are laid before monks in their monasteries and scented water is poured over images of Buddha. The next day the merrymaking and water dousing begins. In addition, there are beautiful floats with orchestras, puppet shows, and chorus lines of girls dancing in colorful costumes with garlands of flowers. Some traditional Thingyan treats are boiled glutinous rice balls filled with palm sugar, and sticky rice with sesame in palm sugar syrup and coconut milk, both served with grated coconut. Originally a moveable holiday celebrated according to the traditional Burmese lunisolar calendar, Thingyan is now celebrated every year from April 13-16.

14. Vaisakhi (New Year): Hindu

This celebrates the beginning of the solar new year 1937 of the Saka era, which dates from the ascendancy of Emperor Salivahana in A.D. 78. On this day, Hindus ritually bathe in the Ganges River to purify themselves."Happy New Year," "God bless you with prosperity and happiness," or "I wish you happiness and prosperity" are appropriate greetings.

16. Holocaust Memorial Day (Yom Hashoah): Jewish

This day has been designated by Israel's Knesset, or Parliament, as 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. This program, building on long-standing anti-Semitism, began with arrests and imprisonment of Jews in the early 1930s and extended in the 1940s to 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.

New Year: Myanmar

This is the traditional Burmese New Year following the Thingyan Festival. On New Year’s Day, people pay respects to their elders, teachers, and monks by performing gadaw, showing gratitude and reverence by kneeling before them with joined hands and bowing.

19. Festival of Ridvan (riz-wan): Baha'i

On the first, ninth, and twelfth day of the Baha'i month of Ridvan (April 21, 29, and May 2), Baha'is commemorate the declaration of Baha'u'llah in 1863 of his mission as the last messenger of God to the world. Although Baha'is observe all twelve days, these three days are ones on which they refrain from work. The word "Ridvan" means paradise, and refers to the garden in Baghdad where Baha'u'llah proclaimed his mission as the prophet of God.

22. Earth Day: International 

First celebrated in 1970 in the United States as a day to honor the Earth and call attention to environmental concerns, Earth Day is now celebrated internationally in more than 192 countries.

23. Gathering of Nations Powwow: American Indian

This three-day event, held annually at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, is the largest powwow in North America. More than five hundred tribes from Canada and the United States come every year to participate in this celebration of American Indian culture, which features drum groups and ceremonial singing, chanting, and dancing in traditional dress. There are exhibitions of American Indian artifacts and authentic Indian crafts for sale. The Gathering of Nations organization seeks to promote the traditions and culture of the American Indian people in the most positive manner possible and to dispel stereotypes created about the Indian people. The powwow provides educators with an opportunity to develop instructional materials on Indian history and culture for elementary and secondary schools.

Respect for Ancestors Day (Thanh Minh): Vietnam.

This is similar to the holiday in all other Asian cultures for paying respects to one's ancestors by visiting and decorating their graves.

29. Golden Week (April 29-May 5): Japan.  

This is a holiday period that incorporates Showa Day on April 29, Constitution Day on May 3, Greenery Day on May 4, and Children's Day on May 5. This is a period when children have vacation from school and many workers have time off. Since Constitution Day falls on a Sunday this year, the holiday will be observed on Monday, May 4. Greenery Day will be observed on Tuesday, May 5 and Children’s Day will be observed on Wednesday, May 6.

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

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