April 2019 Cultural Diversity Review

Cultural Diversity

This year, April showers us with some important holidays. Without a doubt, Easter dominates the month. It’s almost three weeks later than it was last year, and if you celebrate Orthodox Easter you will have to wait another week. The reasons for the shifting dates are covered below. Other notable festivals this month are the Solar New Year festivals. Whether it’s Songkran in Thailand, Pii Mai in Lao or Thingyan in Myanmar, April 14th will be a fun time to be in South-East Asia!

Month info: The word April is rooted in the Latin Aprilis, which is derived from the Latin aperire meaning ‘to open’, which could be a reference to the blossoming of the flowers and trees, a common occurrence throughout the month of April in the Northern Hemisphere. In old english, April was known as Eastre-monath as Easter often falls in April.

Featured Holiday in April


April 21st: Easter

Easter (also called Pascha) is generally condidered the most important holiday of the Christian year, observed in March or April each year to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead after his death by crucifixion (see Good Friday), which Christians believe happened at about this time of year, almost two thousand years ago. (Easter can also refer to the season of the church year, lasting for nearly two months, which follows this holiday and ends around Pentecost)

The name Easter is derived from ‘Ostara’ or ‘Eostre’, a pagan goddess of fertility, whose feast was celebrated on the Vernal Equinox. The word East is also derived from her names, as is Oestrogen, the female hormone. In Saxon culture, the Hare was sacred to Ostara and the modern tradition of the Easter Bunny is a distant echo of that.

The dates when Easter is celebrated varies from year to year. Why is this different to the other main Christian holiday, Christmas day, which is always on December 25th? The problem is that the Gospels are pretty vague on the date of Easter. Matthew, Mark and Luke indicate one date, whereas John indicates a different date.

Another factor is that Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus. To early Christians, his return for second time was imminent, therefore they didn’t worry too much about dates.

As the centuries passed, this lack of clarity around the date meant there was no standard date for Easter. For example by the late Third Century, if you travelled around Europe, you could celebrate Easter several times in the space of a few week. In Alexandria, Easter was always April 25th; in Rome it was April 18th and in parts of Gaul, it was celebrated on March 21st. In fact, in parts of Celtic Britain, the crucifixion was commemorated on a Thursday instead of a Friday.

It was only after several attempts to set a standard date for Easter, that the formula of the Alexandrian Church was accepted as the correct way to determine the date. With this method, and a passing nod to the method of calculating Passover, Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon whose 14th day is on or after the Vernal Equinox.

Read about Easter

Notable Holidays in April

April 6: India: Ugadi

Ugadi is the lunar New Year’s Day for the people of the Telugu and Kannada communities in India.

The legend behind this festival is that Lord Brahma created the universe on Ugadi.

The nine day long spring festival of Vasanta Navratri (Chaitra Navratri) begins on this day and concludes on Ram Navami. It is believed that the creator of the Hindu pantheon Lord Brahma started creation on this day – ‘Chaitra Suddha Padhyami’ or the Ugadi day.

The famed Indian Mathematician Bhaskaracharya’s astronomical calculations in the 12th century determined the date of Ugadi from the sunrise on as the beginning of the New Year, new month and new day.

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April 3: Various: Isra and Mi’raj Night

The Prophet’s Ascension or the Night Journey; Isra and Mi’raj marks the Prophet Muhammad’s journey from Mecca to Jerusalem and ascent into heaven, sometime around the year 621. The details come from the Quaran and other teachings.

The Night Journey starts with the appearance of the angel Gabriel who takes the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) to Jerusalem on a winged horse. In Jerusalem, the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) met and prayed with many prophets including Moses, Abraham and Jesus. This part of the journey is known as ‘Isra’.

The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was then carried by Gabriel to heaven, ascending through the seven heavenly realms until he reached paradise where he spoke to god. This second part of the journey is know as the Mi’raj, which means ladder in arabic.

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April 25: Australia: Anzac Day

In 1915 Australian and New Zealand soldiers formed part of the allied expedition that set out to capture the Gallipoli peninsula. The plan was to capture Constantinople (now Istanbul), capital of the Ottoman Empire and an ally of the Germans. They landed at Gallipoli on April 25th, meeting fierce resistance from the Turkish defenders.

The assault rapidly became a stalemate, dragging on for 8 months. By the end of 1915 the allied forces were evacuated after both sides had suffered heavy casualties. Over 8,000 Australian soldiers were killed. News of the landing at Gallipoli made a profound impact on Australians back at home and April 25th became the day on which Australians remembered the sacrifice of those who had died in war.

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April 13: Thailand: Songkran

The word Songkran is from the Sanskrit language and means the passage of the sun from one sign of the Zodiac to another. That means there are twelve Songkrans each year, but the significance of this Songkran (sometimes called Major Songkran to distinguish it from the others) is when the sun enters the sign of Aries the Ram. This particular event was also closely related to the Vernal Equinox.

The most famous aspect of the Songkran celebrations is the throwing of water. Indeed, Songkran is often known as the Thai Water Festival. The custom originates from spring cleaning aspect of Songkran. Part of the ritual was the cleaning of images of Buddha. Using the ‘blessed’ water that cleaned the images to soak other people is seen as a way of paying respect and bring good fortune.

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National Days in April

12 countries have their national days in April. How many people in the company do you know from each country? Remember to wish them a happy national day!

CyprusApril 1Cypriot National Day: Marks the start of insurgence against the British in 1955
SenegalApril 4National Day: Marks independence and the transfer of power agreement signed with France on 4 April 1960
American SamoaApril 17Flag Day: On 17 April 1900 American Samoa became a U.S. Territory
SyriaApril 17Evacuation Day: Commemorating the evacuation of the last French soldier and independence on April 17, 1946
ZimbabweApril 18Independence Day: Recognition of independence from the United Kingdom in 1980
IsraelApril 19Yom Ha’atzmaut: Proclamation of independence from the British Mandate of Palestine 1948
EnglandApril 23St George’s Day: St George is the patron saint of England, not a bank holiday
NetherlandsApril 27Kings Birthday: Marks the birthday of King Willem Alexander.
Sierra LeoneApril 27Independence Day: Marks independence from the UK on 27 April 1961
South AfricaApril 27Freedom Day: South Africa’s first democratic general election in 1994
TogoApril 27Independence Day: Independence from the French-administered UN trusteeship in 1960

April Observances

Throughout the month, there are days set aside to observe all sorts of events, some serious and some not so serious. These days can provide interesting ways to engage employees in diversity issues. The table below shows a selection of these days with some ideas how you could use them within your organisation.

1stApril Fools’ DayRead: Did you ever fall for an April Fool’s prank? This global tradition has a mysterious past with several theories on why we choose April 1st to play tricks.
11thNational Pet DayPoll suggestion: Do you have a pet and what animal is it?
20thNational Look Alike DayPost: Do you have a look alike? Or do you think your collegaues look alike someone famous? Why not post the name and look alike name on your intranet to see if you can build a team of famous look alikes?
22ndEarth DayActivity: Does your company do anything to mark Earth Day? Read about this observation.
23rdNational Talk Like Shakespeare DayDid you know? William Shakespeare was born and died on the same date – April 23rd.
26thNational Arbor DayDid you know? Arbor Day was almost called “Sylvan Day,” which means wooded and refers to forest trees. “Arbor” was chosen instead as it is more general and includes forest trees and fruit trees.