When you are planning ahead for the new year, it can be helpful to think around the cultural, religious and community-focused events that might affect your schedule. This can be an especially useful exercise when you are doing business with overseas communities that may be busily observing a week-long festival when you were intending to set up a meeting or office visit (such as Chinese New Year, which definitely does not correlate to our New Year’s Eve!).
Here we summarise some of the key global events in the 2020 calendar that you might want to note in your diaries. And every month in 2020, we will share an in-depth guide to the month’s events as a useful reminder of what lies ahead.
Cultural Events & Celebrations For January 2020
1 – New Year’s Day.
A day for people to set their intentions for the year – or perhaps just recover from the night before – this is also a day when you can guarantee everyone will be out of the office in the UK (and many places around the world).
6 – Epiphany. Christianity.
Three Kings’ Day (known as ‘Día de Reyes’ in Mexico), or the Feast of the Epiphany, marks 12 days after Christmas when the three kings arrived in Bethlehem to recognise Jesus as the Son of God.
7 – Coptic/Eastern Orthodox Christmas. Coptic Christianity.
Christmas is celebrated a little later by Coptic and Eastern Orthodox Christians because both religions base their celebration dates around a slightly different calendar.
25 – Burns Night. Scotland.
A celebration of the Scottish poet Robert Burns, Burns Night is an annual evening of haggis and poetry enjoyed by Scots the world over.
25 – Chinese New Year. China.
This ‘spring’ festival of renewal in China can include days of celebrations, with offices often closed for a week. 2020 is the Chinese Year of the Rat.
25 –Tet (Vietnamese New Year). Vietnam.
Cultural Events & Celebrations For February 2020
Black History Month.
The first official Black History Month took place in the USA in the 1970s. It has also been a fixture on the UK calendar since 1987, and it is now celebrated the world over. Visit the Black History Month website to find out more about events in the UK this February.
9 – Mother’s Day. Norway.
For those working with clients in Norway, Mother’s Day is celebrated on the second Sunday in February, which this year is Sunday 9th February.
14 – Valentine’s Day
February is inextricably entwined with Valentine’s Day, a global celebration of love and affection (which is unlikely to intrude into office life beyond the occasional bouquet of flowers – though perhaps some secret admirers might create a stir!).
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).
21 – International Mother Language Day.
Is your new year’s resolution to learn a language falling a little by the wayside as you settle into the year? If so, this international celebration of all that is wonderful about global language diversity may help to rekindle your enthusiasm. Celebrated on the 21st February, 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 look to understand other languages and cultures.
21 – Maha Shivaratri (Shiva’s night). Hinduism.
A public holiday in India, this celebration honours one of the most important Hindu deities, Lord Shiva.
21 – Rio Carnival, Brazil. Christianity.
This may be tied into Lent (finishing as it does on Ash Wednesday each year), but it is as much an enormous party as a religious observance. If you are trying to reach your Brazilian colleagues at this time, you might be out of luck – so why not go and join the party!
26 – Ash Wednesday. Christianity.
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).
Cultural Events & Celebrations For March 2020
Women’s History Month.
A celebration of women and their influence on culture and history. Women’s History Month began in the USA as Women’s History Week, but the full month-long event is now recognised around the world. (International Women’s Day also takes place on the 8th March.)
1 – St David’s Day. Wales.
The feast day of St David, the patron saint of Wales. It 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.
9–10 – 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.
17 – St Patrick’s Day. Ireland.
The feast day of St Patrick, the patron saint of 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 Thursday in 2020). 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 (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.
22 – 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.’
Cultural Events & Celebrations For April 2020
Earth Day takes place on the 22nd April each year, but some have also started to call April Earth Month – and with climate change entering both political and personal conversations at an increasing rate, it seems worthwhile to highlight protecting our natural world over the course of this month.
6 – 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.
7 – Motherhood and Beauty Day. Armenia.
While UK and Nigerian mothers enjoy Mother’s Day in March, Armenian mothers have to wait a couple of weeks for their celebration of motherhood. Part of the reason for this is to correspond to the Feast of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary, which is celebrated on the same day.
8 – Buddha’s birth. Buddhism.
The date can vary year by year and even country by country, but in 2020 the Buddha’s birthday is widely celebrated in 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.
8–16 – Passover. Judaism.
A Jewish celebration commemorating God’s liberation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. Traditional 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.
10 and 12 – 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 10th April). Easter Monday (the day after Easter Sunday, celebrated on 13th 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.
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!).
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.
19 – 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 later in the month of April (Note: Coptic/Orthodox Good Friday is on the 17th April, accordingly).
22 – Earth Day.
Earth Day is a worldwide day of support for environmental protection and preservation – and this year’s theme, unsurprisingly, is climate action. 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.
23 – Ramadan. Islam.
The evening of the 23rd 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 23rd 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.
Cultural Events & Celebrations For May 2020
5 – Cinco de Mayo. Mexico/USA. Commemorates the Mexican defeat of the invading French army in 1862. Cinco de Mayo has also become a cultural celebration of Mexican-American culture in the USA.
7 – Vesak (or Buddha Day). Buddhism. Commemorates the birth, enlightenment and death of the Buddha.
23 – 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.
Cultural Events & Celebrations For June 2020
LGBT Pride Month. June has long been recognised as a month for celebrating LGBT Pride coinciding with the anniversary of the Stonewall riots, but Pride events often stretch out across the summer and at different times of the year too.
20 or 21 – Midsummer/Summer Solstice. Christianity/cultural. This day marks the longest day in the Northern Hemisphere (and the shortest day in the Southern Hemisphere, where it is Midwinter). Midsummer celebrations, particularly in northern Europe, usually take place during the period 19–25th June, and these are often more cultural than religious events.
Cultural Events & Celebrations For July 2020
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. Expect parades, fireworks and live entertainment – and it is a public holiday, too.
28 – The Hajj annual pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Islam. A pilgrimage that adult Muslims must carry out at least once in their lifetimes (if able to do so).
30 – 3 August – Eid al-Adha. Islam. This ‘festival of the sacrifice’ is celebrated following the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. Starting the evening of the 30th July, this is a four-day festival and is usually a public holiday in Muslim countries, so expect an out-of-office email during this time.
Cultural Events & Celebrations For August 2020
1 – Pachamama Day. Andean South America. In northern Argentina and the Andean region of South America, ‘Mother Earth’ (Pachamama) Day is celebrated – a time for expressing gratitude to Mother Earth for her bounty.
9 – International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. An annual opportunity to raise awareness and protect the rights of indigenous peoples around the world.
16–23 – Paryushana. Jainism. The most important Jain observance, also known as the ‘festival of forgiveness’.
19–20 – Hijri New Year. Islam. The Islamic New Year (also known as the Arabic New Year).
Cultural Events & Celebrations For September 2020
18–20 – Rosh Hashanah. Judaism. A celebration of the Jewish New Year.
Cultural Events & Celebrations For October 2020
1 – Mid-Autumn or Moon Festival. China. This annual celebration is a major event in China and other parts of East Asia. Traditional moon cakes are usually shared as gifts.
4 – World Animal Day. A day to celebrate and campaign for animal rights and welfare around the world. If you are looking for a way to unite your team around a shared cause, this could be a great choice!
17–26 – Navaratri festival. Hinduism. An autumn festival celebrated over nine days, honouring the Goddess Durga.
28–29 – Mawlid. Islam. A celebration of the Prophet Muhammad’s birth.
30–1(Nov) – Thadingyut. Myanmar/Burma. A public holiday for the festival of lights, marking the end of Buddhist Lenten season in Myanmar/Burma.
Cultural Events & Celebrations For November 2020
1 – All Saints’ Day. Christianity. Also known as All Hallows’ Day or the Feast of All Saints, this is celebrated by Christian churches around the world.
2 – All Souls’ Day/Day of the Dead. Christianity/Mexican culture. All Souls’ Day is a day of prayer and remembrance for the dead. In Mexico, the Day of the Dead (‘Día de Muertos’) is a related celebration that is both a Christian and a cultural event.
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. A memorial day for remembering those who died during the First World War and other wars in the line of duty.
14 – Diwali. Hinduism. Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, is also celebrated by Sikhs, Jains and some Buddhists.
26 – Thanksgiving USA. Rooted in a tradition of giving thanks and sacrifice for the blessing of the harvest, it has become a federal holiday. It is celebrated on the 4th Thursday of the month and the holiday has resulted in one of the biggest shopping days of the year: Black Friday.
28–29 – Tazaungdaing. Myanmar/Burma. A public holiday for the festival marking the end of the rainy season in Myanmar/Burma, an occasion for paying respect to one’s parents and elders.
30 – St Andrew’s Day. Scotland. The feast day of St Andrew, the patron saint of Scotland.
Cultural Events & Celebrations For December 2020
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! Also known as the Feast of St Nicholas.
8 – Bodhi Day. Buddhism. A contemplative celebration of the Buddha’s enlightenment.
10 – Human Rights Day. A global celebration that commemorates the date that the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In a world where human rights are still under threat in some parts of the world, this is a good date for the diary for any global business.
10–18 – Chanukah (or Hanukkah). Judaism. The eight-day Jewish festival of lights.
21 or 22 – Midwinter/Winter Solstice. This day marks both the shortest day in the Northern Hemisphere and the longest day in the Southern Hemisphere. Some cultures focus events around Midwinter (or Midsummer) at this point in the year.
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.
31 – New Year’s Eve. The night before the new year (at least according to the Gregorian calendar), which is widely celebrated around the world.
We have tried to include as many key dates and events as possible for you here – but please do add a comment if we have missed one that you would like to know more about, so we can include it in our monthly event guide.
We believe that language learning is an exceptional way to learn about the world and bring cultures and communities together – as well as being a crucial tool for developing your global business network.