When you are planning ahead for the year ahead, it can be helpful to think around the cultural, religious and community-focused events that might affect your schedule and the schedules of your clients. This feels especially important after the year that we experienced in 2020 – because maybe, just maybe, 2021 will seem a little more normal and a little less unprecedented.
While we may not be able to hop on a plane and visit our overseas clients quite yet, we might be able to make a few more plans than were possible just a few short months ago. Plus, it is nice to keep an eye on the dates that are meaningful to our family, friends and colleagues locally and around the world.
Here we summarise some of the key global diary dates for 2021 that you might want to take note of.
Jump to a month:
1 – New Year’s Day. Worldwide.
New Year’s Day deserves an honourable mention, because the new year’s resolutions people make in January often characterise elements of the days and weeks ahead. Some people even manage to make their resolutions last all year! Language learning (or boosting your language skills after some lockdown learning) might be at the top of some people’s new year’s resolutions lists – and if so, this may even fit with the strategic plans for your business. Regardless, it is a good time of year to check in with your colleagues about their professional aspirations and goals – you may be able to help support each other.
6/7 – Epiphany and Coptic/Eastern Orthodox Christmas. Christianity.
Three Kings’ Day (known as ‘Día de Reyes’ in Mexico), or the Feast of the Epiphany, is a Christian feast that marks the twelfth night after Christmas (6th January) when the three kings arrived in Bethlehem to recognise Jesus as the Son of God. Western Christians focus their celebrations on the manifestation of Jesus Christ to the magi (the ‘three kings’), while Eastern Christians celebrate the later baptism of Jesus and his manifestation to the world as the Son of God.
Christmas itself is enjoyed a little later in the diary by Coptic and Eastern Orthodox Christians because they base their celebration dates around the Julian rather than the Gregorian calendar. Coptic Christmas (7th January) is a public holiday in Egypt, and Eastern Orthodox Christmas is a public holiday on the same date in Russia, Georgia, Montenegro and Serbia, among others.
25 – Burns Night. Scotland.
Robert (or ‘Rabbie’) Burns, the Scottish poet, is a national treasure in Scotland. A famous inspiration for musicians and writers, his world-famous new-year-welcoming song ‘Auld Lang Syne’ is one of the most popular songs in the English language. Every year, Scots and poetry lovers gather to celebrate this talented icon with food, drink and merriment. Expect to consume Scotch Whisky, haggis, ‘neeps’ (turnips) and ‘tatties’ (potatoes) as part of your Burns Night celebrations. For some modern yet quintessentially Scottish ways to spice up your Burns night fare, visit Scotland.org.
12 – Chinese New Year. China.
Chinese New Year begins on the 12th February and is celebrated until the 22nd February in 2021. You can expect that your Chinese colleagues will keep the office firmly closed for at least a week.
Preparations for the new year can begin as early as the 4th February, and the Chinese New Year festivities are then followed by a Lantern Festival. This is a very festive time in China, where the new year celebrations are also symbolic of spring and renewal.
2021 is the Chinese Year of the Ox. People born in ‘ox years’ (such as 1961, 1973, 1985 and 1997) are thought to be honest, earnest, logical and kind. Click here to find out more about the Year of the Ox.
12 – Tet. Vietnam.
The 12th could be a quiet day in the office if you have Chinese or Vietnamese clients or colleagues, because when Chinese New Year is on its way, the Vietnamese are also looking to welcome in the new year through the Tet festival.
Tet is closely linked to Chinese New Year festivities because both are celebrated according to the Lunar New Year, meaning they share the same start to the year (other Asian countries, such as Korea, also start their new year on the same day). In Vietnam, the Tet festival is also a week-long holiday, so expect an out-of-office email from much of Asia from the 12th February!
12 – Rio Carnival, Brazil. Christianity.
The carnival is as much an enormous party as a religious observance, but its status for 2021 is unclear – some events may go ahead on a smaller scale, while others are unlikely to proceed. But keep an eye on the carnival’s website, just in case: as 2020 has shown, virtual parties can be fun too!
14 – Valentine’s Day. Worldwide.
February is inextricably entwined with Valentine’s Day, a global celebration of love and affection – this year, on the same day as Mother’s Day in Norway.
15 – Parinirvana Day (or Nirvana Day). Buddhism.
Buddhists observe the death of the Buddha on this day, when he achieved nirvana (freeing him from physical suffering).
17 – Ash Wednesday. Christianity.
Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent, a solemn Christian period of sacrifice and fasting before Easter. The day before is known as Shrove Tuesday, when pancakes are traditionally eaten in Christian countries as a way of using up the ingredients that are not consumed during Lent (such as eggs and sugar).
21 – International Mother Language Day. Worldwide.
Is your new year’s resolution to learn a language falling a little by the wayside? If so, this international celebration of all that is wonderful about global language diversity may help to rekindle your enthusiasm. International Mother Language Day has been observed every year since 2000 to promote mother tongues, encourage language diversity, and increase awareness of linguistic and cultural traditions around the world. With a language disappearing every two weeks – often taking many cultural traditions with it – there has never been a more important time to better understand other languages and cultures.
1 – St David’s Day. Wales.
The feast day of St David, the patron saint of Wales, may not be a public holiday in Wales (yet), but it is celebrated with enthusiasm, with traditional festivities including eating Welsh rarebit (a savoury and often spicy cheese dish) and wearing daffodils. Try making your own Welsh rarebit if you are feeling festive – delicious!
8 – International Women’s Day.
A global day that champions a gender-equal world for all and celebrates women’s achievements. Some countries even celebrate Mother’s Day on this day, including Kazakhstan, Moldova and Serbia.
11 – Maha Shivaratri (Shiva’s night). Hinduism.
A public holiday in India, this celebration honours one of the most important Hindu deities, Lord Shiva.
14 – Mother’s Day. UK and Nigeria.
Although dads in the UK have to wait until June to celebrate Father’s Day, mums get to enjoy the festivities in the UK during March. Nigeria also shares the same Mother’s Day (a vast majority of the rest of the world chooses to celebrate in May, however, including the USA). The tradition originated in the States, but the person who campaigned successfully for Mother’s Day to be recognised, Anna Jarvis, later came to resent the commercialisation of the celebration, saying: ‘A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who’s done more for you than anyone in the world.’
17 – St Patrick’s Day. Ireland.
St Patrick’s Day is a cultural and religious celebration, and it is also observed as a public holiday in Ireland. The reason that an excess of food and drink correlates with the festivities seems to stem from a Christian tradition of relaxing the restrictions of Lent for this day.
19 – Father’s Day. Croatia, Italy and part of Belgium, amongst others.
While for a large part of the world, Father’s Day is in June, there are quite a few places that celebrate dads in March. Croatia, Bolivia, Italy, Portugal and Spain honour their fathers on this day (a Friday in 2021). A key reason for this split between the March and June dates is that Catholic countries tend to choose the 19th March, because this is when they celebrate St Joseph’s Day (the husband of the Virgin Mary and earthly father to Jesus Christ). As for Belgium? While the rest of Belgium celebrates dads in June (though on a different Sunday to the majority of the world!), Antwerp also honours Father’s Day on 19th March.
27 March – 4 April – Passover. Judaism.
Passover is a Jewish celebration commemorating God’s liberation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. Passover rituals include a traditional Passover meal (a ‘seder’) and removing leavened bread from the home and replacing it with matzo (a traditional flatbread). A seder plate on the table at the traditional Passover meal usually contains foods that have particular significance, including a mixture of nuts, fruit and wine called ‘charoset’ that represents the mortar that Jews used to bond bricks while bound as slaves.
28–29 – Holi. Hinduism.
Celebrated in India and Nepal, this festival is now recognised globally and is known as the ‘festival of colours’, ‘festival of spring’ or ‘festival of love’. The amazing and vibrant colours being thrown around add a spirit of fun and community to the event.
2 and 4 – Good Friday and Easter Sunday (or Resurrection Sunday). Christianity.
Easter Sunday is a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead (after his crucifixion on Good Friday, a public holiday on the 2nd April). Easter Monday (the day after Easter Sunday, celebrated on 5th April this year) is a public holiday in many countries, as is Good Friday – making for a four-day break from work in many cultures. As well as religious services, there are many other traditions associated with Easter – such as Easter eggs and Easter bunnies – and some of these originate from pagan celebrations of spring and fertility.
7 – Motherhood and Beauty Day. Armenia.
While UK and Nigerian mothers enjoy Mother’s Day in March, Armenian mothers have to wait a few weeks for their celebration of motherhood, as well as beauty.
8 – Buddha’s birth. Buddhism.
The date can vary year by year and even country by country, but many Buddhists celebrate the Buddha’s birthday on the 8th April. The Buddha taught the four noble truths – what we now know as Buddhism – from the age of 35 until his death at age 80.
12 – Ramadan. Islam.
The evening of the 12th April marks the beginning of Ramadan, a month of fasting, prayer and reflection where no water or food is consumed from sunrise to sunset for each day of the month ahead (until Eid al-Fitr on 12th May). As well as refraining from food and drink during daylight hours, Muslims also focus their energies on doing good deeds and dedicating themselves to the teachings of Islam.
13–15 – Songkran. Thailand.
A national holiday and celebration of Thailand’s New Year, Songkran is a two- or three-day event. Songkran is celebrated with huge water ‘fights’ but also by throwing water onto parades or floats of Buddhas to cleanse them. It is both a new year and a religious festival, so if you are in the country for the festivities, remember to dress appropriately (no beachwear!) – and, of course, follow the guidelines on physical distancing.
13–16 – Thingyan Festival. Myanmar.
Thingyan is also known as the ‘Water Festival’ or ‘Burmese New Year’ in Myanmar (Burma). Water throwing is a large part of the festivities, which culminate with the start of the new year. It is a public holiday in Myanmar, and it is the most important national holiday of the year for the Burmese people. It is celebrated at a similar time to Songkran in Thailand and other South Asian new year celebrations.
22 – Earth Day.
Earth Day is a worldwide day of support for environmental protection and preservation. Earth Day has been going strong since 1970, following the publication of Silent Spring in 1962 – Rachel Carson’s devastating account of the impact of pollution on living organisms and its implications for public health. If sustainability is core to the agenda of your business or your clients and customers, consider marking this date firmly in the diary.
23 – St George’s Day. England.
The feast day of St George, the patron saint of England, is celebrated on the anniversary of his death in AD 303. Incidentally, the 23rd April is also the date that William Shakespeare is thought to have died (in 1616) – on his 52nd birthday! Find out more about St George here.
25 – Mahavir Jayanti. Jainism.
The most important public holiday in Jainism, this day celebrates the birth of the Jain prophet, Mahavir. Its date varies each year, depending on the lunar cycle (it is on the 13th day of the waxing moon in the month ‘Chaitra’, which is the first month of the year in the Hindu calendar). Mahavir Jayanti is celebrated with prayers and fasting.
1 – May Day. Europe/USA.
While May Day itself is officially on the 1st of the month, the public holiday is usually celebrated on the first Monday in May in the UK (which in 2021 is the 3rd May). However, May Day traditions around the world vary, and some countries see the day as a celebration of spring – or, indeed, the Blessed Virgin Mary.
May Day is a popular celebration across Europe, with many pagan associations. For example, in Bulgaria May Day is associated with protecting people from snakes and lizards (which are said to come out of their ground on May Day, ready for summer), while in Finland there is a carnival-like atmosphere as May Day is celebrated starting the night before (Walpurgis Night) and on into May Day itself. Walpurgis Night is celebrated in some form throughout many parts of northern and central Europe, including Germany and Sweden.
In the UK, traditional celebrations involve maypole dancing (where people dance around with ribbons until the maypole is completely covered) and Morris dancing (a style of folk dancing involved groups of bell-clad and stick-wielding dancers).
2 – Coptic/Orthodox Easter Sunday. Christianity.
The Eastern Orthodox churches celebrate Easter a little later than most of us in the West, so expect some of your contacts to turn their focus to Easter early in May. (Note: Coptic/Orthodox Good Friday is on the 30th April, accordingly.)
5 – Cinco de Mayo. Mexico/USA.
In Mexico, Cinco de Mayo (meaning ‘5th of May’) commemorates the Mexican defeat of the invading French army on May 5th, 1862. It is only celebrated as a public holiday in parts of Mexico, but all public schools are closed (which means you may find it feels like a public holiday if you are trying to reach your Mexican counterparts). Events include historical re-enactments of events from the battle, usually in costume, as well as street parades and festivals across the nation.
Cinco de Mayo has also become a cultural celebration of Mexican-American culture in the USA – in fact, it is more popular in the USA than in Mexico, as evidenced by the US$600 million spent on beer for 2013’s Cinco de Mayo (more than was spent on beer that year before the Super Bowl!).
9 – Mother’s Day. Worldwide.
While the UK and a handful of other countries celebrate Mother’s Day in March or at other points of the year, the vast majority of the world celebrates Mother’s Day on the second Sunday in May, which this year is on the 9th May. Nearly 100 countries celebrate Mother’s Day on this date, including the USA, Ghana, Australia, Croatia, Germany, Malaysia and Uruguay.
12 – Eid al-Fitr. Islam.
Beginning at the first sight of the crescent moon, Eid al-Fitr is a feast that marks the end of Ramadan (which starts on the eve of the 12th April in 2021). Ramadan is a month of fasting, prayer and reflection, so Eid al-Fitr is also known as the ‘Festival of Breaking the Fast’. While Eid al-Fitr is set to begin on the 12th May this year, this can vary slightly because it depends on when the first sight of the crescent moon is seen at the end of Ramadan.
13 – Ascension Day. Christianity.
Ascension Day is always a Thursday (sometimes called the ‘Feast of the Ascension of Christ’ or ‘Ascension Thursday’). It is celebrated throughout Christianity and its date is determined by the date of Easter (it is the fortieth day after Easter Sunday). Ascension Day commemorates the day that Jesus Christ ascended to heaven. Western churches celebrate a little earlier than Eastern Orthodox/Coptic churches, following the dates for Western and Eastern Orthodox/Coptic Easter.
24 – Whit Monday. Christianity.
Whit Monday is a public holiday in many European countries, including France, Germany and Norway. It follows Pentecost, or Whit Sunday. Pentecost is a feast day that commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples of Jesus Christ, according to the New Testament’s Book of Acts. Pentecost occurs 50 days after Easter.
26 – Vesak (or Buddha Day). Buddhism.
Vesak is one of the most important festivals celebrated in Buddhism. Vesak celebrates the birth and enlightenment of the Buddha, and commemorates his death. It is honoured widely in many Asian countries, including Thailand and India. While it is a celebration, it is also a time for reflection and meditation, and many people choose to spend the day in thought or reflection at a Buddhist temple.
31 – Spring Bank Holiday. UK.
The Monday of ‘Whitsun weekend’ used to be a public holiday in the UK, but the holiday became a more general ‘spring bank holiday’ in the 60s (which was made official in 1971). Some Whitsun traditions in the UK (such as Morris dancing) have transferred from Whitsun weekend to the spring bank holiday weekend (and the public holiday is usually the last Monday in May). Of course, Whit Monday and the spring bank holiday often fall on the same day in the UK – but not in 2021!
1 – Children’s Day. Worldwide.
It is difficult to identify the correct date for Children’s Day, because while it originated in the USA (where it is celebrated on the second Sunday in June – this year, the 13th), it is more widely recognised on the 1st June. However, the UK date is in May, and another large group of countries opts for 20th November (to reflect when the United Nations adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child in 1959, followed by the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989).
Children’s Day may be less widely acknowledged throughout the world than the days celebrating mothers and fathers, so the recognition of the rights of children is perhaps the most important element of Children’s Day. A more light-hearted and whimsical way of looking at Children’s Day is that ‘every day is children’s day’, as illustrated entertainingly by Charles M. Schulz in a 1965 Peanuts comic.
20 – Midsummer/Summer Solstice. Christianity/cultural.
The Summer Solstice marks the longest day in the Northern Hemisphere (and the shortest day in the Southern Hemisphere: the Midwinter Solstice). Midsummer celebrations usually take place around this time, and these are often more cultural festivals than religious events. Midsummer (‘Midsommar’ in Swedish) is a hugely popular cultural event in Sweden and the rest of northern Europe, where celebrations are second only to Christmas in importance. The Summer Solstice is commonly thought of as being the 21st June, but the solstice can actually vary by a day either side.
20 – Father’s Day. Worldwide.
For around half the countries in the world, Father’s Day is celebrated on the third Sunday in June, which in 2021 is the 20th. Countries all over the world share this date of celebration, from the UK and USA to Ecuador, South Africa and the Philippines. A few others celebrate Father’s Day on different dates in June: Belgium (except Antwerp) and Austria celebrate a week earlier, on the 13th June, while Lithuania, Switzerland and Denmark celebrate dads in the first week of June.
14 – Bastille Day. France.
French National Day (as it is otherwise known) marks the anniversary of French unity and commemorates a key turning point in the French Revolution – the storming of the Bastille in Paris on the 14th July 1789. Typically, you would expect parades, fireworks and live entertainment, but this year the celebrations may look a little different depending on the degree of pandemic restrictions at the time.
Bastille Day is a public holiday in France, so you can expect to get an out-of-office message from your French colleagues, wherever they are working from.
17 – The Hajj annual pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Islam.
The Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, the holy city in Saudi Arabia, is a journey that adult Muslims are expected to experience at least once in their lifetimes (if physically and financially able to do so). It is a multi-day event, and one of the Five Pillars of Islam.
This year’s event is expected to start on the 17th July, although restrictions relating to the coronavirus pandemic may impact this year’s pilgrimage, especially considering that around two million people make the pilgrimage most years.
20 – Eid al-Adha. Islam.
This ‘festival of the sacrifice’ is celebrated following the Hajj annual pilgrimage to Mecca. It commemorates the willingness of the prophet Ibrahim to sacrifice his son, Ishmael, to Allah (Ishmael was replaced with a lamb before the sacrifice). The date varies depending on the sighting of the moon during Dhu al-Hijjah (a sacred month in the Islamic calendar). The festival takes place over up to four days and includes a public holiday in Muslim countries such as Turkey, Indonesia, the United Arab Emirates and Malaysia, so expect an out-of-office email during this time.
1 – Pachamama Day. Andean South America.
In northern Argentina and the Andean region of South America (which experience winter rather than summer at this time), the first of the month heralds a celebration of ‘Mother Earth’ (on Pachamama Day) – a time for expressing gratitude to our planet for its bounty and beauty.
9 – International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. Worldwide.
This UN-driven annual event is an opportunity to raise awareness and protect the rights of indigenous peoples around the world – something that feels more important than ever in a time of a global pandemic when indigenous communities are particularly vulnerable. To find out more about the potential impacts of pandemics such as COVID-19 on indigenous peoples and their environments, visit the UN website.
9–10 – Hijri New Year. Islam.
The Islamic New Year (also known as the Arabic New Year) indicates the start of a new year according to the Islamic lunar calendar. The date changes each year as the Islamic calendar year is shorter than the Gregorian calendar year. A day in the Islamic calendar begins at sunset rather than from midnight (as with the Gregorian calendar).
The Islamic New Year is a public holiday in several countries with significant Muslin communities, such as India, Malaysia, Indonesia and the United Arab Emirates.
10 – Ganesh Chaturthi. Hinduism.
Ganesh Chaturthi is a festival celebrating the birth of Lord Ganesh, the son of the Hindu Lord Shiva and the Goddess Parvati. The festival continues for ten days, and the dates vary each year depending on the Hindu calendar.
The festival is celebrated by Hindu communities around the world, especially in western India.
15 – Assumption of Mary. Christianity.
If this is an unfamiliar religious celebration to you, it may be because it is particular to certain branches of the Christian faith – notably the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches. The ‘Assumption’ relates to the physical taking up into heaven of Mary, the mother of Jesus, at the end of her earthly life.
Antwerp (in Belgium) and Costa Rica also celebrate Mother’s Day on this day, and Assumption Day is a public holiday in both countries, as well as in many other Catholic and Eastern Orthodox countries, such as Italy, Spain, Greece, Georgia, Paraguay and Colombia.
4 – Paryushana. Jainism.
The most important Jain observance, Paryushana is also known as the ‘festival of forgiveness’ because it culminates in a day of confession and asking for forgiveness. The festival occurs during the time of the rainy season in India, when many observers are abiding in one place or coming together to study and reflect (‘Paryushana’ means to abide or come together).
5 – Father’s Day. Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Papua New Guinea.
While for many countries around the world Father’s Day is celebrated in June, there are also Father’s Day celebrations scattered throughout the rest of the year – only January and April appear to be free of such paternal festivities. In September, it is time for the Antipodean countries, Australia and New Zealand, as well as nearby Fiji and Papua New Guinea, to celebrate dads.
6 – Labor Day (‘Labour Day’ in Canada). United States and Canada.
North America starts September with a long weekend that culminates in the public holiday Labor Day (Canada uses the spelling ‘Labour’). It is celebrated in recognition of the contribution of labourers to the development, prosperity and achievements of these countries. Much of the rest of the world celebrates a form of International Workers’ Day in May (with part of the focus recognising the eight-hour workday), although the UK more commonly refers to the early May bank holiday as ‘May Day’.
Labor/Labour Day marks the unofficial ‘end of the summer’ in North America, and the schools usually restart just before or after the long weekend.
6–8 – Rosh Hashanah. Judaism.
Rosh Hashanah is a celebration of the Jewish New Year, which starts on the first day of Tishrei, the seventh month of the Hebrew calendar. It is a two-day festival that begins the Days of Awe, a ten-day period of reflection that culminates in Yom Kippur. During the Days of Awe, it is thought that God judges all creatures and determines whether they will live or die in the year ahead. Rosh Hashanah and the Days of Awe are therefore a time of repentance and prayer.
8 – International Literacy Day. Worldwide.
Every year since 1966, the United Nations has celebrated literacy in September, recognising the importance of literacy to individuals, communities and societies. Literacy is a key component of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, specifically Goal 4: Quality Education.
12 – Father’s Day. Latvia.
The Antipodes is not the only place celebrating dads in September – Europe gets in on the action too, with Latvia celebrating Father’s Day this month.
14 – Hindi Day (Hindi Diwas). Hinduism/India.
Hindi Diwas commemorates the adoption of Hindi as an official language of India in 1949. Hindi Diwas plays an important role in schools and college education, and the government hosts awards on this day to recognise contributions to the Hindi language.
15–16 – Yom Kippur. Judaism.
Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the Jewish year, and it is also known as the Day of Atonement. Following on from the Days of Awe (that begin with Rosh Hashanah), God decides upon each person’s fate for the year on Yom Kippur, which is why atonement is so significant – Yom Kippur encourages Jews to atone for their sins and ask for forgiveness before their fate has been decided. Work is forbidden on Yom Kippur, and Jewish people (who are healthy and able to do so) fast for a full day, from one evening to the next.
21 – Mid-Autumn or Moon Festival. China.
This annual celebration is a major event in China and other parts of East Asia, and it is the second most important cultural date in the Chinese calendar (after Chinese New Year). It is a celebration of the harvest moon, in the hope of a bountiful harvest the next year. Traditional moon cakes are shared as gifts and enjoyed with family and friends, and the Mid-Autumn Festival is a public holiday each year (the date changes each year according to the Chinese lunar calendar).
23 – International Day of Sign Languages. Worldwide.
Sign language is central to giving deaf people around the world access to services, communities and the full extent of their human rights, and so the UN proclaimed the 23rd September as an annual day of recognition for sign languages that also promotes their use in different contexts. As advocates for the universal connectivity that languages provide, we fully applaud the UN’s commitment to promoting the use of sign languages around the world. Find out more about this relatively new day of celebration on the UN’s website.
30 – International Translation Day. Worldwide.
Another recent international day of recognition for languages, International Translation Day pays tribute to language professionals worldwide who help to facilitate clear communication between countries and cultures through translation services. The UN resolution, adopted in 2017, recognised the role of language professionals in connecting nations and fostering peace, understanding and development.
4 – World Animal Day. Worldwide.
Here’s an adorable and universal date for the diary: World Animal Day, a day to celebrate and campaign for animal rights and welfare, wherever you are in the world. If you are looking for a way to unite your team around a shared cause, this could be a great choice!
7–14 – Sharad Navratri festival. Hinduism.
An autumn festival, Sharad Navratri is celebrated across India over nine days, and honours the Goddess Durga. Each day has special significance, and the festival is celebrated in different ways across India.
25 – Labour Day. New Zealand.
While North America starts September (and the autumn) with its equivalent of Labour Day, New Zealand recognises Labour Day in October, when spring is starting to bloom. It has been a public holiday since 1900.
If you live in New Zealand’s nearby neighbour Australia, Labour Day occurs on different days according to which state you live in.
18–19 – Mawlid. Islam.
A celebration of the Prophet Muhammad’s birth, the term ‘mawlid’ can also refer to the birth of other Islamic holy figures. There is some disagreement about the actual date of the Prophet’s birth, therefore some Muslims do not recognise this as the correct date.
19–21 – Thadingyut Festival. Buddhism (Myanmar).
The Thadingyut Festival is a colourful festival of lights at the end of the Buddhist Lent in Myanmar. It is a public holiday marked by fireworks displays and illuminated streets, which are meant to resemble the Buddha’s pathway to descend back to Earth. It is a three-day event, including the days before, during and after the full moon, and so the dates vary each year.
31 – Halloween. Christianity.
Halloween has a rich history. It began as a pagan Celtic festival, Samhain, when costumes would be donned to ward off ghosts. Over time, the day connected to All Saints’ Day (1 November), and so it became known as All Saints’ Eve, and then All Hallows’ Eve, and eventually the more familiar Halloween. Nowadays, the costumes remain a large part of Halloween, but the festivities have become more mischievous via trick-or-treating and pumpkin carving, though many events are family friendly.
1 – All Saints’ Day. Christianity.
October’s Halloween rolls straight into All Saints’ Day, otherwise known as All Hallows’ Day or the Feast of All Saints, which is celebrated by Christian churches around the world. While a religious festival honouring the saints may not feel that close to Halloween in modern terms, the entire three-day period (to also include All Souls’ Day) is also known as Allhallowtide.
2 – All Souls’ Day/Day of the Dead. Christianity/Mexican culture.
All Souls’ Day is a day of prayer and remembrance for the dead, commemorating departed souls believed to be in purgatory. In Mexico, the Day of the Dead (‘Día de Muertos’) supports the spiritual journey of the dead through remembering and praying for the lives of family and friends who have died. It is celebration of the dead rather than a sombre observance.
4 – Diwali. Hinduism.
Diwali, the five-day Hindu festival of lights, is one of the most important Hindu festivals (the 4th is the main and central day of the festival). Streets and temples are decorated with lights to celebrate the triumph of light over darkness. The festival is also celebrated by Sikhs, Jains and some Buddhists. It is a public holiday in India, Myanmar, Nepal and Pakistan, among other countries.
5 – Guy Fawkes Night. UK.
Celebrated in the UK (and some Commonwealth countries, such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada) with fireworks, Guy Fawkes Night remembers when a plot to destroy the House of Lords was foiled. Also known as Bonfire or Fireworks Night.
11 – Remembrance Day. Worldwide.
A memorial day to remember those who died during the First World War and other subsequent wars in the line of duty. In the USA, it is known as Veterans Day.
14 – Father’s Day. Scandinavia.
In the northern European countries Norway, Sweden, Finland, Estonia and Iceland, Father’s Day is celebrated on the second Sunday of November.
18 – Tazaungdaing. Buddhism.
Tazaungdaing is a festival of lights that marks the end of the rainy season in Myanmar. Newly woven robes are offered to Buddhist monks during the festival period. It is a public holiday in Myanmar.
19 – Guru Nanak Gurpurab. Sikhism.
One of the most sacred festivals in Sikhism, Guru Nanak Gurpurab celebrates the birth of the first of the ten Sikh gurus, Guru Nanak.
20 – Children’s Day. Many Countries Worldwide.
While much of the world recognises Children’s Day in June, and the UK in May, a significant number of countries (including the Arab world, Canada, Sweden, Ireland and France) celebrate Children’s Day on this date in November (when the United Nations adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child in 1959).
25 – Thanksgiving. USA.
Rooted in a tradition of giving thanks and sacrifice for the blessing of the harvest, Thanksgiving has become a federal holiday. It is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of the month (the holiday has also resulted in one of the biggest shopping days of the year: Black Friday, the next day).
28 November – 6 December – Chanukah (or Hanukkah). Judaism.
A familiar symbol of this eight-day Jewish festival of lights is the menorah, a candelabrum with nine candles. The main candle is called the ‘shamash’ and it is used to light one new candle each day. By the end of the festival, all nine candles are alight.
30 – St Andrew’s Day. Scotland.
The feast day of St Andrew, the patron saint of Scotland. The St Andrew’s cross (white on a blue background) adorns the Scottish flag and is integrated into the Union Jack.
6 – St Nicholas Day. Christianity.
This European celebration gets Christmas off to an early start – indeed, for people in many European countries (such as Poland), Christmas starts here and winds up by Christmas Eve on the 24th! You might also notice that ‘St Nicholas’ and ‘Santa Claus’ sound vaguely similar – find out more about the origins of Santa Claus here. Also known as the Feast of St Nicholas, Eastern Christian churches celebrate this day two weeks later on the 19th December.
8 – Bodhi Day. Buddhism.
A contemplative celebration of the Buddha’s enlightenment – when the Buddha discovered the root of all suffering, and how to liberate himself from this suffering. The Buddha is also known as the ‘Awakened One’ or ‘Enlightened One’.
8 – Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Christianity.
The Feast of the Immaculate Conception honours the Virgin Mary, and it is one of the most significant dates in the calendar for Roman Catholics. It is a public holiday in a number of countries, including Argentina, Chile, the Philippines and Italy (where it marks the beginning of Italy’s Christmas celebrations).
10 – Human Rights Day.
A global celebration that commemorates the date that the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. At a time when human rights are still under threat in many parts of the world, this is a good date for the diary for any global business.
21 – Midwinter/Winter Solstice. Worldwide/cultural.
This day marks both the shortest day in the Northern Hemisphere and the longest day in the Southern Hemisphere. Some cultures focus cultural festivities and events around Midwinter (or Midsummer) at this point in the year. Stonehenge is a popular gathering place at sunset on the Winter Solstice because its stones line up with the sunset, fuelling many a story about Stonehenge’s origins.
25 – Christmas Day. Christianity.
Christmas celebrations vary, but the 25th is our familiar festive touchstone in the UK. You can also find out more about Christmas celebrations around the world here.
26 – Kwanzaa. USA.
A week-long celebration of African-American culture that originated in the USA in the 1960s. Many people celebrate Christmas as well as Kwanzaa, and the kinds of gifts shared on the last day of Kwanzaa are often homemade or educationally focused (to avoid overcommercialising the celebrations).
31 – New Year’s Eve. Worldwide.
The night before the new year (at least according to the Gregorian calendar), which is widely celebrated around the world, is a night for parties, elaborate countdowns and fireworks to light up the night sky as people herald the start of a new year. Of course, many cultures use different calendars and celebrate the new year at different times – for example, Chinese New Year falls at different times early in our calendar year depending on the lunar calendar.
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