April 2020 Cultural Diversity Review

Cultural Diversity

Usually we start the review by highlighting the fun festivals that will distract people from their work and attract many of them to travel to experience the great gatherings of people. For most of the world, April will take place under the shadow of the Coronavirus outbreak. Most festivals are cancelled or reduced in scale. Yet, the big festivals in April carry important messages about sacrifice and rebirth.

In these testing times, diversity shouldn’t be forgotten – it remains a source of strength and inspiration for many. If you are working with a remote team, it can be a difficult time for some and taking time to acknowledge someone’s national holiday or get the team to think about an observance can help to make everyone feel connected.

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 12th: Easter

Easter (also called Pascha) is generally considered 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 13: Thailand: Songkran

The Thai government have postponed the celebrations and public holidays for Songkran until later in the year, but this event is marked across South-East Asia, so it’s worth looking at what it’s all about.

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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April 24: Ramadan

April sees the start of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

The Fast of Ramadan lasts the entire month, which can be 29 or 30 days, depending on sightings of the moon.

Ramadan is a time when Muslims concentrate on their faith and spend less time on the concerns of their everyday lives. It is a time of worship and contemplation.

During the Fast of Ramadan strict restraints are placed on the daily lives of Muslims. They are not allowed to eat or drink during the daylight hours. Smoking and sexual relations are also forbidden during fasting.

At the end of each day, the fast is broken with prayer and a meal called the iftar.

The holiday of Eid al-Fitr, which means “festival of breaking the fast”, marks the end of Ramadan. This day is declared when the crescent new moon has been sighted.

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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 30: Various: Buddha’s Birthday

The exact date of Vesak is the first full moon in the fourth month in the Chinese lunar calendar. The date varies from year to year in the Gregorian calendar but is typically in May.

Buddha Purnima is the most sacred day in the Buddhist calendar. It is the most important festival of the Buddhists, and is celebrated with great enthusiasm.

Although Buddhists regard every full moon as sacred, the moon of the month of Vaisakh has special significance because on this day the Buddha was born, attained enlightenment (nirvana), and attained parinirvana (nirvana-after-death of the body) when he died.

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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
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
Israel April 29 Yom Ha’atzmaut: Proclamation of independence from the British Mandate of Palestine 1948

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 any of your colleagues look like someone famous? Why not have some fun on your team call and encourage them to share their look alike suggestions for the team!
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 – which is also England’s National Day – St. George’s Day.
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.