Category Archives: Holidays

October 2: Gandhi’s Birthday, India

October 2nd is an annual celebration of Mahatma Gandhi’s birth on Oct 2, 1869 in India. In 2007, the United Nations adopted a resolution which also declared this day as the International Day of Non-Violence.

Ghandi is considered the founder of modern day India as he was both a political and spiritual leader to the people of India. He played a key role in India gaining its independence by using a technique called non-violent agitation.  India gained its freedom from Great Britain in August 1947, just five months before Gandhi’s death on January 30, 1948.

The day is marked with ceremonies celebrating Gandhi’s life, with prayers, showing films and book readings about Gandhi and often ceremonies commemorating those who are also using non-violent ways of life.

Canada Day: July 1

Canada Day

Canada day is the national day of Canada and is an official national bank holiday and paid workday. Every year, the holiday is celebrated on July 1 to commemorate the anniversary of the British North American Act signed on July 1,1867. This act, known today as the 1867 Constitution Act, joined  the three British colonies Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and the Province of Canada (now Ontario and Quebec) to form a new, single country called Canada. As well as creating the new country Canada as a member of the British Empire, it also set out the detailed constitutional groundwork for Canada’s government, including the taxation system, justice system, and federal structure.

History of Canada Day

Canada Day has been an official holiday in Canada since its creation in 1879 when it was known as Dominion Day. However, it was not until the 1950s that the holiday began to be widely celebrated. As the holiday grew in popularity, there was some controversy as to the name of the holiday. Many believed that Dominion Day sounded to pejoratively colonial, while traditionalists believed changing the name to Canada Day would be an affront to the British Empire. In 1967, Canada celebrated their centennial as a country, which greatly increased Canadian patriotism. The passing of the 1982 Constitution Act that changed Canada from a dominion of the British Empire to an independent country of the Commonwealth, also greatly increased Canadian patriotism. On October 27. 1982, the holiday was changed to Canada Day.

How Canada Day is Celebrated

Canada Day is celebrated throughout Canada. When July 1 falls on either a Saturday or Sunday, the celebrations employees are granted July 2 as the holiday from work. Much like the Fourth of July celebrations in the United States, Canadians like to celebrate Canada Day with outdoor activities such as street hockey, parades, barbecues, firework shows, free musical concerts, etc. In Ottawa, Ontario (the capital of Canada), the prime minister officiates the live concerts and displays of Canadian cultural pride on Parliament Hill.

Holiday Spotlight: Ridvan

Ridvan is a 12-day festival of the Baha’i Faith that begins at sunset on April 21th.  The word Ridvan translates into the word paradise and is the most holy Baha’i festival. The festival is sometimes referred to as the “Most Great Festival” and is a celebration of the start of the prophet hood of Baha’u’llah.

Ridvan Garden Baghdad

Ridvan Garden Baghdad

Ridvan marks Baha’u’llah’s time in the garden of Ridvan in 1863 and his announcement to his companions in the garden that he was a messenger of God and the prophet promised by the Bab. The 1st, 9th and 12th days are especially holy days. They commemorate the arrival of Baha’u’llah at the Ridván Garden, the arrival of his family and his eventual departure from the garden.  These are the days that work and school is usually suspended for all Baha’i people.

Gardens are a requirement for Baha’i Houses of Worship. There are currently seven continental Baha’i Houses of Worship in the world. Each has a unique style but they all have four basic requirements: they are circular shape, have nine sides, a dome, and are surrounded by nine gardens with walkways.

The Baha’i faith is a monotheistic religion founded in the 1800s in the geographic region once known as Persia by Baha’u’llah.

Ridvan is one of the holidays included in our top 15 Religious Holidays Guide.  Learn more about this important scheduling and reference tool: http://www.culturecoach.biz/CCI%20Store/top15religiousholidaysguide.html

The Green March, Morocco November 6

The Green March was an organized political demonstration orchestrated by the Moroccan government in order to gain control of what they viewed as the Moroccan Sahara from Spanish control. The march took place from November 6-10, 1975, with approximately 350,000 Moroccan citizens and 20,000 troops gathering together at the city of Tarfaya in southern Morocco and marching into the Sahara region of Sakiya Lhmra. Marchers carried with them Moroccan flags and Qur’ans. The march earned the name the “Green March” because of the use of the color green, which was used to symbolize the march’s connection to Islam.

On October 16, 1975 the International Court of Justice announced that Sahara should have the right to self-rule. King Hassan of Morocco did not want to lose this valuable territory that was by his view a part of his country, and so he worked internally to organize a political march that would advance his claim over the Sahara region. While Morocco claimed sovereignty over Sahara, the disputed territory itself did not want to leave Spanish control just to be taken over by Morocco’s government. Thus Morocco was eventually met with fierce resistance in the form of the Saharan Polisario. To this day the territory remains a disputed region and the Green March is a holiday symbolizing Moroccans’ belief in the legitimacy of their claim.

The Science Behind the 2014 Diversity Calendar

The Different Calendars that Make Up a Diversity Calendar

Diversity Calendar 2014

For more information on our Diversity Calendar 2014 visit www.diversitycalendar2014.com

The process of putting together a diversity calendar with over 1400 cultural and religious holidays from around the world is involved and complicated.  While the United States and many other countries in the world use the Gregorian calendar, many countries such as Saudi Arabia and religions such as Eastern Orthodox Christianity use different calendars and therefore the date of certain holiday observances must be translated to the Gregorian calendar that CCI uses. The Gregorian calendar is a solar calendar and is the most widely used. It is considered the universal standard calendar by most International organizations.

There are over 49 different calendars currently in use by people around the world. Of these there are three overarching calendar systems that form the basis for many of the 49 calendars, those systems are: Lunar, Solar, and Lunisolar. These systems represent different ways of measuring the length of a year and interpreting astronomical events effecting the measurement of months and the year. In this blog post we are delving into some of the more technical considerations that Culture Coach makes when putting together the diversity calendar.

Lunar Calendar

A lunar calendar is a calendar that uses the full cycle of the moon (from New or Dark Moon to Full and then back to New) to determine month length and uses the 12 sequential lunar cycles to measure the year. A well-known example of a lunar calendar is the Islamic Hijri calendar. The lunar calendar serves to determine traditional holidays in parts of the world that use the calendar such as India, China, Korea, Japan, and Vietnam.  Some examples of holidays that are determined based upon lunar calendars include Ramadan, Diwali, Chinese New Year, and Chuseok. An example of how the occurrence of a holiday is marked on a lunar calendar can be seen with Chuseok, which is celebrated on the 15th day of 8th month of the lunar calendar.

Solar Calendar

A solar calendar is designed to mark the passing of a year as measured by the amount of time that it takes the earth to circle around the Sun one complete time. Technically, a solar year is measured as the interval between vernal equinoxes. The vernal equinox is the time when the sun crosses the plane of the equator towards the relevant hemisphere, making day and night of equal length. The Gregorian calendar is one example of a solar calendar, as is the Iranian calendar and the Baha’i calendar.  The calendar that Culture Coach develops each year uses the Gregorian format, thus all holidays based upon a solar calendar system do not have to be adjusted for listing on the diversity calendar.

Luni-solar Calendar

A luni-solar calendar is based on a combination of both the solar and lunar calendar systems. A luni-solar calendar has a sequence of months based on the lunar phase cycle, but every few years a whole month is intercalated to bring the calendar back in phase with the tropical year. The Hebrew, Buddhist, and Burmese calendars are examples of this type of calendar and therefore a luni-solar calendar is used to determine the dates for Hebrew, Buddhist, and Burmese holidays. Due to varying methods in determining intercalary months, luni-solar calendars may have minor or even substantial variances on the dates even between countries from the same geo-cultural region, such as the national Burmese calendar compared to the Therevada Buddhist calendar to the Thai calendar. Therefore, Culture Coach has made every effort to ensure that the date listed reflects the country’s or religion’s specific calculations.

Diversity Calendar and Accuracy

However, as a disclaimer, it should be noted that sometimes there is no way to determine that the dates listed on our diversity calendar are 100% accurate. There are still certain regions, towns, and villages that rely upon the actual physical sighting of the moon to determine the beginning of a holiday. For example, the Swaziland holiday Incwala is marked “Too Be Announced” and the elders will not announce the holiday to officials until 2-3 days before the actual day. This is because it generally falls around the fourth day after the Full Moon nearest the longest day of the year, but the actual date actually depends on when the King and youths return from their rigorous march to the royal village. We take every effort to list the accurate date for the celebration of a holiday on our calendar, and now you know some of the steps that we take to ensure accuracy.

Click here for more information on how to buy our 2014 Diversity Calendar

Latest Cultural Quick Tip Newsletter is Out Now – December 2012

Culture Coach International just finished releasing the Cultural Quick Tip Newsletter for December 2012. The theme of the month is Combining Old and New, which takes a metaphorical look at how diversity initiatives require both new and old resources in order to be effective.

This month’s holiday features Junkanoo in the Bahamas: This post Christmas Day celebration is believed to date back to the 17th century and is filled with colors, costumes and street carnivals.

We also included the international secular and religious holidays for the month of December, alongside some interesting proverbs and idioms from Hawaii, Russia and Korea.

For a complete look at the newsletter, click here. If you are interesting in signing up to receive the monthly tip in your inbox each month, sign up here.

Victory Day in Mozambique – September 7

The current Flag of Mozambique since 1983. The designed is modeled after that flag of FRELIMO and is the only one in the world to feature a modern weapon

For Mozambicans, the 7th of September marks a special moment for their nation as it was on this day that the Lusaka Accord was signed, establishing the country as an independent nation from Portuguese colonial rule. The national waited nearly 500 years for the right to govern itself, and after many years of armed guerilla conflict with Portugal, it finally came about in 1974.

The history of Portuguese influence in Mozambique began in 1498 as Portugal slowly began colonization of what was to become Portuguese East Africa in order to secure inroads into the lucrative oceanic trade routes to India and the Far East that Arab traders had a near monopoly on. By the mid point of the 19th century, Portugal was making a big push in expanding its rule in the area after the independence of another one of its territories, Brazil, was granted in 1822. Strong criticism was placed on Portugal for their rule over Mozambique as they increasingly exploited the local population for cheap labor in the nearby diamond and gold mines. By 1964 enough support of the general indigenous population had been garnered to support an independence movement in order to put an end to the exploitation and take full control of the country’s own destiny. The Mozambique Liberation Front (FRELIMO), a guerilla force, began its armed conflict with the Portuguese government in 1964 that would last for 10 years. In addition to Mozambique, Portugal’s other African colonies were also experiencing similar independence movements. Angola, Sao Tome & Principe, and Portuguese Guinea were also fighting for their independence, collectively deemed as the Colonial Wars, which further strained Portugal’s resources.

Fighting between the FRELIMO and Portugal was volatile, and just when it seemed that the war would continue for several more years, a peaceful coup d’état destabilized the Portuguese government from the interior on April 25, 1974 in Lisbon. Portugal had increasingly spent more and more money to finance the war to a point where nearly half of its annual budget was being devoted to the cause. As a result, support for the war was low with some 100,000 Portuguese having dodged the military draft during the ten year period, aiding in the downfall of the government.

Portuguese Minister of Overseas Negotiations and later Primer Minister, Mario Soares, hands the keys to the Presidential Red Point Palace (Palácio da Ponta Vermelha) over to Samora Machel, the First President of Mozambique, on September 7, 1974 during the signing of the Lusaka Accords.

A ceasefire was soon agreed upon that same year, and on September 7, 1974, the Lusaka Agreement was signed that coordinated the handover of Mozambique to FRELIMO forces within a year’s time.

Unfortunately, independence from Portugal did not mean a sure path to prosperity. With the loss of Mozambique, most of the 300,000 Portuguese in the territory returned to Portugal, leaving Mozambique without many of the people who once ruled and ran the daily infrastructure of the country, and contributed to a large part of its GDP. As a result, Mozambique fell into chaos, and a civil war ensued for the next fifteen years.

Today, Mozambique is a peaceful independent nation that recognizes September 7th as a national holiday by commemorating this moment in history with parades, military processions, and remembering its falling heroes during the movement for independence. It is typical that the president of Mozambique, Armando Guebuza, places a wreath of flowers at the Heroes Plaza in the capital Maputo. Click here to read more from the people who were there to recount the story of independence.

Victory Day is just one of more than 1500 holidays featured in Culture Coach International’s 2013 Cross Cultural & Diversity Calendar. Click on the link to view the design and features of this years calendar.

South Africa Celebrates National Women’s Day – August 9

Flag of the Nation of South Africa

While most of the world’s countries celebrate Women’s Day on March 8th with public holidays, South Africa is one of the few nations that does not. Instead, August 9th the country commemorates women’s day on a day when nearly 20,000 women came together in the country’s executive capitol, Pretoria, to protest against the ‘Pass Laws’ of the time. What they started on this day would show the nation and the Apartheid government that women were not second-class citizens and were more than capable of making independent choices for themselves.

Early on during the time of the National Party’s apartheid government in South Africa from 1948 – 1994, Pass Laws required black men to carry various types of documentation, stating that they had permission to be in a township, or urban area, for certain purposes if staying for longer than 72 hours. Black women, however, were able to continue to live and move about freely in the townships without the documentations if they were unmarried or wives of black men who were working in the township. Eventually, with the pass of the Natives Abolition of Passes and Coordination of Documents Act in 1952, laws tightened and all black women were brought under the same category as the men and they too were required to carry a single pass book, known as a reference book, with the name of the person’s employer, tax records, and living permission. This book would need to be authorized by the employer each month.

Women’s Day Protest in front of the Union Buildings in Pretoria, South Africa on August 9, 2006 during the 50th anniversary of the event. Courtesy of Robert Tyabji via Flickr

Women across many regions of South Africa were outraged at the threat to their freedom of mobility, and in 1954, as the Act became law, women coordinated protest efforts across the country to show their opposition. By 1956, the amount of women showing support for the Anti-Pass movement was strong and continuing to grow. Eventually, they would collect thousands of signatures to give to the then prime minister, JG Strijdom. It was not until August 9th of the same year that their work seemed to come to full fruition when nearly 20,000 women of all colors arrived to Pretoria to march to the Union Buildings, the official seat of the South Africa government, to deliver the collected signatures. The Prime Minister, however, had purposely arranged to be away for the protest and the signatures were delivered to his secretary. However, the women did not want to be silenced by the Prime Minister’s cold shoulder and continued to congregate outside the government buildings for the entire day. At one point, the nearly 20,000 women stood in complete silence for an hour, but the most recognizable event to emerge from the day was the singing of ‘Wathint’ aba­fazi, Strijdom!’, which has come to be known as the anthem of the march:

Segregated South Africa during the Apartheid era. Women’s Day in 1956 saw a backlash against the government’s attempts to further segregate the races by encroaching upon the freedom of movement for black women. Courtesy of the United Nations

wath­int’ aba­fazi,
wath­int’ imbokodo,
uza kufa!

When you strike the women,
you strike a rock,
you will be crushed [you will die]!

While the pass laws were not removed until 1984, women, especially colored women in South Africa, made a statement that they would no longer settle for the second class citizenry they had previously known. They were now a mature political force demanding to be heard, and wanting equality. The day is now an official public holiday in South Africa after the African National Congress (ANC) declared it so in 1994. The day is commemorated with small gatherings around the country to reflect upon the significance of the day for women’s rights. In recent years, the date and entire month of August have been used to bring attention to the plight of women living in poverty in the rural areas.

South Africa’s National Women’s Day is one of the many international holidays found in Culture Coach International’s (CCI) 2013 Multi Cultural – Diversity Calendar. For more information on the features of the calendar, please visit our website.

Birthday of Luis Munoz Rivera – July 16

For Puerto Ricans on the island and the large Diaspora of communities on the US mainland, the third Monday of July is a reason to remember. While Luis Munoz Rivera was himself born on the 17th of July in 1859, it is on this day that he is remembered as one of Puerto Rico’s leaders for the right to autonomy.

Munoz Rivera was born into a middle class family and grew up in a small town on the island’s interior. He was fortunate enough to be educated by his mother who used the family’s unique book collection to give her son an advantage in a time when owning books was not common. By the age of 10 he had reached the highest education available to him on the island, which was still a part of Spain at the time. With no higher education facilities available locally, Munoz Rivera would either have to go to Spain or Cuba to continue his education. Unfortunately, his mother passed away soon thereafter and he was put in charge in helping to raise a multitude of children. Besides helping his father in the family legal business, young Munoz Rivera would also begin dabbling in poetry, which would spur him into politics when writing passionately about his island. His efforts were widely published throughout the small newspapers and other literary publications on Puerto Rico, and would garner him and the autonomy party a positive reputation.

At the same time, the island was politically divided between the liberals and conservatives, particularly after the Spanish American War of 1898 when Puerto Rico was ceded to the USA from Spain. Munoz Rivera was critical of the US government because he did not believe that they would endow autonomy on the island, but rather would occupy it for its strategic position in the Caribbean and proximity to the Panama Canal. After publishing harsh criticisms of those who supported statehood, his life came under threat and his family was forced to move to New York City. Here, he set up a bilingual paper called the Puerto Rican Herald and traveled back and forth between the island and the mainland to oversee it and to continue his political career. By 1904, he was one of 5 elected officials from the Union Party of Puerto Rico chosen to represent the party in the House of Delegates. He spent his time making political contacts, eventually becoming Resident Commissioner in the House of Representatives. He used his position here to gain support for Puerto Rican autonomy among other politicians in the US government, and his work eventually lead to the Jones-Shafroth Act of 1917 which granted the people of Puerto Rico American citizenship.

While the third Monday in July is an official public holiday in Puerto Rico, the day is not celebrated in any special way or with any specific traditions. However, a mass is held in Luis Munoz Rivera’s native town of Barranquitas and is attended by the Democratic People’s Party, which he and his son helped establish, as well as the general public.

The Twelfth or Orangemen’s Day – July 12

Historically, during the spring and summer months in Northern Ireland, ‘marching season’ has been a controversial event and a major point of tension between the two main religious groups in the country: Protestants and Catholics. For much of the holiday’s history, tensions have flared between Protestant Unionists (loyal to the sovereign) and Catholic Nationalists (not loyal to sovereign) and violence was common. While the situation has improved greatly in recent decades, marching season, and particularly Orangemen’s Day, is a time of escalated tensions in the neighborhoods along the parade routes. For many, holidays such as Orangemen’s Day are a good reason to escape the centuries old turmoil to spend a day or long weekend in the beautiful countryside. However, for those who remain in the cities and towns, colorful parades are held to honor the historical events of the day over 300 years before.

The history of the day begins in 1690 when less than two years after the Protestant Prince William of Orange had deposed his father-in-law, the Catholic King James during the Glorious Revolution, (sometimes know simply as the Revolution of 1688) King James was attempting to once again save face and reclaim his title as ruler of the land. At the Battle of the Boyne on July 1st, King James would suffer a defeat that would eventually be recognized as the turning point in his losing campaign. With nearly 50,000 men at the battle, 2,000 lives were lost, the majority of them being King James’ men who were ill equipped and organized.  A few weeks later, Prince William would become King William and ruler of the United Kingdoms of Scotland, Ireland, and England, returning the religion of the land once more to Protestantism.

Today the Battle of the Boyne is remembered as Orangemen’s Day on the 12th of July (after adjustments are made from the Julian calendar). For Unionists, this is the most important marching event. Across Northern Ireland, the Orange Order and other fraternal organizations march with fife and drum bands, and have largely been doing so without incident with improved relations between the two groups in the past decades. Members have traditionally worn black suites, bowler hates, and umbrellas with white gloves. Recently, the dress codes have been relaxed, and even women’s lodges are allowed to march on the day. Afterwards, a picnic or outing with family and friends is had and later on, bonfires are a common occurrence.

Orangeman’s day and the celebration of the victory at the Battle of the Boyne were once a great occasion for all of Britain and a few Commonwealth countries such as Canada as well. As far back as 1984, Toronto, Canada’s largest city, had a parade on the day, but has since fallen in importance due to many factors including the association of violence, allegiance to the sovereign, and declining membership in the organization as immigrants assimilated into Canadian society. Check out this interview done by the Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC) to hear about its history and prominence in Canada.

http://www.cbc.ca/archives/categories/society/celebrations/orangemens-day-losing-glory.html

Flag Day in the United States – June 14

American Flag Day – June 14

American Flag on Flag Day June 14 (Courtesy of Obese Seagull Productions via Flickr)

With nearly 200 independent countries and countless other territories around the globe, Flag Day is a global holiday that can carry multiple meanings depending on where it is celebrated. Perhaps it is the day the country gained independence, won a crucial battle, or adopted the current flag, but regardless of what is commemorated, the day can awaken strong emotions in people.

Unlike other countries where there are specific days where the flag is flown, the United States government flies the flag everyday and the public can do so whenever it so chooses. However, the United States military and branches of the Foreign Service will display larger than normal flags on certain fixed holidays or on decree of a Presidential Proclamation. Click here for a list of flag flying dates observed by the armed forces and US government.

History:

In the United States, Flag Day is celebrated on June 14 and recognizes the day that the Second Continental Congress came together to officially adopt the flag of the newly founded nation. While the flag itself has changed many times over the years to reflect the number of states in the country, the same basic design still persists with 50 stars for the number of states in the union, and 13 alternating red and white stripes that represent the original 13 colonies that declared independence from Britain.

Stony Hill Schoolhouse near Fredonia, Wisconsin; Widely credited for celebrating the first Flag Day on June 14, 1885 (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

The first observance of Flag Day happened on June 14, 1885 at the Stony Hill School near Fredonia, Wisconsin. A teacher at the school, Bernard Cigrand, placed a flag in a bottle on his desk and asked his students to write an essay on what it meant to them. This would eventually become a lifelong campaign for Cigrand who lived to see the day officially establish as Flag Day by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916. Since then, the President of the United States issues a proclamation that asks Americans to fly the flag for the entire week of the 14th. Several parades are held around the country, but primarily the day is of minor important given it’s position between Memorial Day and Independence Day, two of the most patriotic days of the calendar. Pennsylvania is the only state where Flag Day is a public holiday for state workers.

For those wishing to display the flag during the week, here are some ‘Flag Etiquette” tips to abide by:

http://www.usflag.org/flagetiquette.html

Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Weekend June 2 – June 5

60 years ago on the evening of February 6, 1952, Queen Elizabeth II ascended the throne to become Queen of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth realm after the passing of her father George VI at the age of 56. While reign of the Commonwealth would automatically be passed down to her upon the death of her father, as she was the eldest of his two daughters, her official coronation would not be held until June 2, 1953. Today, the Monday or Saturday closest to the June date, depending on the country in the Commonwealth realm, is an annual public holiday celebrating her coronation, and has been selected as the date for Her Majesty the Queen’s official Diamond Jubilee Celebration.

Queen Elizabeth II with her husband Prince Albert (Creative Commons)

When her father died, Queen Elizabeth was not even present in the country, let alone the continent. At 25, she had already been married for 5 years and was traveling through Africa with her husband Prince Philip when she received the news. For some years already, however, the Queen had known about the ill health of her father and had been standing in for him at many official events in preparation for the day when she would eventually rule herself. Upon hearing the news of the passing of her father, she and Philip quickly returned back to Britain. Little did she know that she would reign over the Commonwealth for 60 years, becoming only the second person in history to hold title for so long; her Grandmother Queen Victoria being the first who reigned a total of 64 years from 1837 to 1901.

That fateful day was over 60 years ago, and this week Britain marks the anniversary with a special public holiday on Tuesday the 5th, just one day after their annual Early May bank holiday. The four day weekend is packed with entertainment including a 1,000+ boat flotilla that will lead the royal family down the Thames River and through the very center of London on Sunday. Other festivities will include a concert at Buckingham Palace and several street parties around London. Millions are expected to participate in the events, more than twice as many as those who came out for last year’s Royal Wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton. The Queen will wind down celebrations on Tuesday with a service of Thanksgiving that will be held at St. Paul’s Cathedral.

For a list of all the planned activities for the 4 day period, click here

Flag of the Commonwealth of Nations. The 16 nations that consist of this union have Queen Elizabeth II as Sovereign

In addition to traveling around her own country to celebrate the 60th year of her reign, the rest of the royal family will travel on her behalf to many of the other Commonwealth countries.

William & Kate will travel to Malaysia, Singapore, Solomon Island and Tuvalu

Prince Harry will make visits to the Bahamas, Jamaica, and Belize

Prince Charles and Camilla will travel to Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Papua New Guinea

The following are the 16 countries where Queen Elizabeth is recognized as sovereign, otherwise known as the Head of State:

Antigua & Barbuda
Australia
The Bahamas
Barbados
Belize
Canada
Grenada
Jamaica
New Zealand
Papua New Guinea
Saint Kitts and Nevis
Saint Lucia
St. Vincent and the Grenadines
Solomon Islands
Tuvalu
United Kingdom

In addition to these 16 countries, Fiji ceremoniously recognizes her as Parliament Chief, although she does not possess any sway in government.

May 30 is Indian Arrival Day in Trinidad & Tobago

Flag of Trinidad & Tobago (Courtesy of Wikipedia.org)

Once slavery was abolished on the island, wealthy plantation owners looked to continue to exploit cheap labor for their profit motives. For this, they turned to India and its abundance of willing, cheap labor to work their land. Just as in other Caribbean nations, the Indians came to replace the Africa slaves that had originally cultivated the land.

Indians first began arriving to Trinidad & Tobago in 1845 as indentured servants to serve multiple year contracts as laborers on the islands vast sugar plantations. From the moment the Fath Al Razak brought the first Indian passengers over in 1845 and continuing until 1917, approximately 140,000 workers of Indian origin came to the country looking for a way to escape poverty and India’s strict caste system. Muslims and Hindus were both employed on the island, and plantation owners largely discouraged cultural traditions including the worker’s own self segregation into a traditional caste system.  When their contracts ended, land was given in areas that was either swampy or of poor soil. However, these lands were capable of cultivating other crops besides sugar cane and are why many of the Indians living in Trinidad are found in rural areas.

Indian Arrival Day in Trinidad first began its celebrations in 1945 on the 100th year anniversary of the arrival of the first boatload of workers. However, this did not become a nationally recognized holiday until 1994 in which the name was changed from Indian Emigration Day to its current name in order to emphasize the importance of the Indian community in Trinidad which today compromises more than 40% of the entire population of the two island nation.

Dhalpourie Roti. A classic Trini or West Indian dish seen on Indian Arrival Day (Photo by Bittermelon via flickr)

The non-working holiday is celebrated island-wide on May 30, and one of the most common ways to mark the day is for beach communities to reenact the arrival of the Fath Al Razak to the shores of Trinidad for the first time. Parades and traditional displays of Indian dance, music, and theatre can be found in many communities, but perhaps the best part of the celebration is the influence of Indian food found in Trinidad’s cuisine that seems to particularly bathe the island on this day in fragrant, spicy aromas. Pholourie (fried balls made of split pea flour), Pepper Roti (bread), Saheena (spinach fried in split pea flour), Sada (bread), and Kachowrie (fried lentil balls) are all street food staples that will get the attention of any passer by. Also, the many type of curries, particularly the curried goat, are particular to Trinidad and consumed by all cultures of the island. You may also even see participants who are out and about enjoying the day with channa punch, a type of chickpea drink made with milk, butter, and vanilla.

May 21 is World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development

May 21 is UNESCO's World Day for Cultural Diversity

May 21 is UNESCO’s World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development, which first took shape in response to the events of September 11, 2001 is an effort to further the commitment of developing intercultural dialogue as the best way to promote peace instead of resorting to ethnic and cultural conflict. It is a day that reminds us all of the values that each culture brings forth, to continue to deepen our understanding of each other, and learn to live in cohesion.

As the team here at Culture Coach International is dedicated to promoting cross cultural training and implementing diversity strategies that foster vibrant multi-cultural workplaces, this UN holiday is of special importance to us as it reflects our passion and line of work. While our lives are filled with cultural diversity on a daily level, we understand not everyone is able to find ways to foster cultural diversity. Here is a list of resources, including our definition of cultural diversity, that may help you to think of some ways you can help celebrate this important day.

What is Cultural Diversity? 

Cultural Diversity is the unique identities that are found in the various groups and societies around the world and expressed through our creativity, thinking, and social values. Here at CCI, we believe that diversity transcends the obvious physical differences of race, gender, and nationality to include “all the ways that are similar and different to one another.” This expanded view of diversity includes: ethnicity, sexual orientation, generations, physical and mental ability, and parental status – to name a few.

What Can You Do on World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development?

Do One Things for Diversity, a partnership between the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations, UNESCO, and many more, has provided a simple list of things you could do to celebrate the day in your area:

  1. Visit an exhibit or museum dedicated to another culture.
  2. Invite a family or people in the neighborhood from another culture or religion to share a meal with you and exchange views on life.
  3. Rent a movie or read a book from another country or religion than your own.
  4. Invite people from a different culture to share your customs.
  5. Read about the great thinkers of other cultures than yours (e.g. Confucius, Socrates, Avicenna, Ibn Khaldun, Aristotle, Ganesh, Rumi)
  6. Visit a place of worship different than yours and participate in the celebration.
  7. Learn about traditional celebrations from other cultures; learn more about Ridvan or Christmas, or about the amazing celebrations during Carnival in parts of the Netherlands or Korean Lunar New Year celebrations.
  8. Explore music of a different culture

Here is a great video from Canada that highlights the decisions made to encourage diversity in one of Toronto’s fast growing suburbs:

For more great ideas on celebrating diversity, or to join the Do One Thing for Diversity and Inclusion Campaign, click here

Lag B’omer

May 10, 2012

The Significance of Lag B’omer

For Jews across the word, but particularly for those in Israel, May 10 is the date in 2012 to celebrate the minor Jewish holiday of Lag B’omer and the mystery surrounding its many significances. On the Hebrew calendar it is always the 33rd day of the Count of Omer, which starts on Passover and continues until Shavuot, the next major Jewish Holiday exactly 7 weeks apart.

Multiple families spend the night next to a bonfire in Israel for Lag B'omer (Photo by Katherine Martinelli via Flickr)

The Meaning and History of Lag B’omer

The meaning behind the holiday is a source of confusion for Jews as there area number of stories linked to the date. For some, it is inherently tied to a 1st century sage known as Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai who is given credit for writing the Zohar, the principle work that is found in the Kabbalah, the Jewish book of mysticism. He is believed to be the first teacher of the dimension and the date of his passing also happens to fall on this date.

For others, the Talmud tells of a story that Lag B’omer is a day of mourning for a plague that befell upon many of the 24,000 students of Rabbi Akiva, which occurred during the Counting of the Omer and eventually ceased on this date. Story has it that many of the students died from the plague sent by God because “they did not show proper respect to one another” [Yevamot:62:2].

Still, there is a third connection to the holiday in conjunction with the Bar Kokhba Revolt in the second century. Romans had decreed that Jews could not celebrate a new month with a bonfire. When the sovereign state of Israel was temporarily restored for a two year period afterwards, the date of Lag B’omer would come to commemorate the date of this important freedom.

Kids gather scraps of wood in a Jerusalem neighborhood for the bonfire on Lag B'omer (Photo by Craig Heimburger)

Customs & Traditions of Lag B’omer

For weeks and months before Lag B’Omer, children will gather scraps of wood around their homes for the traditional bonfire. While conservative Jews often criticize the meaning of the bonfire, it nonetheless represents the light that Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai brought into the world upon teaching the Zohar to his students. For many, it is the appropriate time to take a pilgrimage to his final resting place in the village of Meron in Northern Israel where a 24 hour period of festivities in held in his honor. Lag B’omer is also a popular time for Israeli’s to travel to Djerba, an island off the coast of Tunisia, where the oldest synagogue still stands.

Children celebrate this day by playing with bows and arrows as symbols of the victory during the Kokhba Revolt. Others say that this children’s activity commemorates the time of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and the appearance of not a single rainbow. For Jews, the symbol of a rainbow signified that God would not bestow destruction on earth ever since it was seen after the Great flood during the time of Noah. Since the Rabbi was such a force of light in the world at the time, it is believed that God decided that no rainbows were necessary to reassure the people as long as he was present on the earth. The bows represent the rainbow shape itself, but have since been replaced with actual bows and arrows when before it was probable that it was just an arched piece of wood.

Some may also eat Carobs during this day to remember the story of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and his son surviving as outlaws from the Romans while living in a cave in Northern Israel. The carob tree was one of their sources of nourishment where it grew in front of the cave.

Weddings, haircuts, and music are permitted for the most devout Jews from Lag B’omer and onwards as it marks the end of the mourning period.