February 2021 Cultural Diversity Update

Cultural Diversity

Whether or not February is a busy month for holidays and festivals rather depends on the phases of the Moon. For instance, this year, the second new moon after December 21st takes place on February 12th, which means that February hosts the prestigious Lunar New Year holidays that will dominate the middle of February this year. The moon phases also mean that February 2020 will host the many colorful carnivals across Latin America and the Caribbean that usher in the period of Lent.

Month info: February gets it name from the the Roman purification ritual ‘Februa’ held on February 15th. With only 28 days, February was known in welsh as ‘y mis bach’ – the little month. February was the last month to be added to the calendar by the Romans and was the last month of the year, so it was always shorter to account for the inaccuracy in the calendar in those days. It only got a 29th day in leap years in 46 BC under the Julian Calendar reforms.

Featured Holiday in February

February 12: Chinese New Year

The Chinese New Year has a great history. In other traditions, by this time in the year, most resolutions have been forgotten or put back to the following year. However, all hope is not lost, as there’s a second chance to get it right with the celebration of Lunar New Year.

The Chinese New Year is very similar to the Western one, swathed in traditions and rituals.

The origin of the Chinese New Year is itself ancient and obscured by the amount of time. It is popularly recognized as the Spring Festival and celebrations last 15 days. The public holidays last about a week and stores and places of business usually reopen on the fifth day of the first lunar month.

Preparations begin a month before (similar to a Western Christmas) when people start buying presents, decoration materials, food and clothing. A huge clean-up gets underway days before the New Year when Chinese houses are cleaned from top to bottom, to sweep away any traces of bad luck, and doors and windowpanes are given a new coat of paint, usually red.

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Notable Holidays in February

February 6: New Zealand: Waitangi Day

Waitangi Day is New Zealand’s national day. It is a holiday held annually on February 6th to commemorate the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi – New Zealand’s founding document – on February 6th 1840.

The Treaty made New Zealand a part of the British Empire, guaranteed Māori rights to their land and gave Māori the rights of British citizens.

The treaty was signed by a group of Maori chiefs and the British Government, as represented by Lieutenant-Governor Hobson.

There are significant differences between the Māori and English language versions of the Treaty, and since 1840 the question of what obligations the Treaty of Waitangi placed on each side has been a subject of contention ever since.

In the last 25–30 years the style and mood of the commemorations have been influenced by the increasingly heated debate surrounding the status of the Treaty of Waitangi in modern-day New Zealand.

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February 11: Japan: National Foundation Day

February 11th is National Foundation Day, a national holiday for Japanese people to remind themselves of the nation’s founding and foster their love for the nation.

It marks the traditional date on which according to legend Emperor Jimmu founded Japan in 660 BC. In January 1873, the day of the enthronement of Emperor Jinmu, the first Japanese emperor, was made a national holiday and named Kigen-setsu. February 11th 660 BC was determined as the day of enthronement by calculating the date in the solar calendar corresponding to the date recorded in the Chronicles of Japan, Japan’s first history compiled on imperial orders.

However, many historians now believe that Emperor Jinmu’s enthronement, as described in the Chronicles, was probably not a historical fact but merely folklore.

This holiday was abolished after World War II, however, there were so many compliants about its removal that in 1966 the day was reinstated as a national holiday, renamed as National Foundation Day.

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February 15: President’s Day

The original version of the holiday was in commemoration of George Washington’s birthday in 1796 (the last full year of his presidency). Washington, according to the calendar that has been used since at least the mid-18th century, was born on February 22nd 1732. According to the old style calendar in use back then, however, he was born on February 11th. In 1796, many Americans celebrated his birthday on the 22nd while others marked the occasion on the 11th instead.

Then along came Abraham Lincoln, another revered president and fellow February baby (born on the 12th of the month). The first formal observance of his birthday took place in 1865, the year after his assassination, when both houses of Congress gathered for a memorial address. While Lincoln’s Birthday did not become a federal holiday like George Washington’s, it did become a legal holiday in several states.

In 1968, the observation of Washington’s Birthday was shifted to the third Monday in February each year whether or not it fell on the 22nd.

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February 26: Makha Bucha Day

Maka Bucha is a public holiday in several Mekong region countries such as Cambodia and Thailand.

The date of this important Buddhist festival depends on Lunar cycle. The holiday may also be known as Magha Puja.

On this day, the full moon of the third lunar month (called Tabodwe); seven months after Buddha began his teachings, over a thousand monks gathered to hear Buddha preach.

Buddha ordained these monks and spread the principles of Buddhism. This marked a key event in the development of the religion.

45 years later, on the same full moon in the third lunar month, Buddha again delivered his teachings shortly before his death.

This third lunar month on which both events occurred is known in Buddhist Pali language as ‘Makha’. ‘Bucha’, means to honour.

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National Days in February

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

Feb 04Sri LankaIndependence Day: Marks independence from British rule in 1948
Feb 06New ZealandWaitangi Day: Signing of the Treaty of Waitangi 1840
Feb 07GrenadaIndependence Day: Independence from the United Kingdom on 7 February 1974
Feb 11IranRevolution Day: Marks overthrow of the Shah and Ayatollah Khomeini taking power in 1979
Feb 11JapanNational Foundation Day: Marks the day on which according to legend Emperor Jimmu founded Japan in 660BC
Feb 11Vatican CityLateran Treaty Day: Marks an agreement with the Kingdom of Italy in 1929
Feb 15SerbiaStatehood Day of the Republic of Serbia: The beginning of the Serbian revolution against Ottoman rule in 1804
Feb 16LithuaniaLithuanian State Reestablishment Day: Independence after German occupation in World War I
Feb 17LibyaRevolution Day: The revolution against El-Gazafi
Feb 18GambiaIndependence Day: Independence Day, from the United Kingdom in 1965
Feb 23BruneiNational Day: Brunei gained its independence from the United Kingdom on 1 January 1984
Feb 23GuyanaRepublic Day: Also known as Mashramani, republic 1970
Feb 24EstoniaIndependence Day: Memorial day of the 1848 Revolution against the Austrian empire
Feb 25KuwaitNational Day: marks the creation of Kuwait as a nation in 1961
Feb 27Dominican RepublicIndependence Day: Independence from Haiti in 1844

There is a Day for That!

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 organization.

2ndGroundhog DayInformation: The most eagerly awaited rodent-based weather forecast of the year has a surprising link to old European customs.
14thValentine’s DayInformation: Did you know there are three different saints named Valentine recognized by the Catholic Church? Valentine may not be the luckiest of names, as all three of the saints are martyrs.
16thPancake TuesdayWhile New Orleans goes Mardi Gras crazy before the start of Lent, in the UK, they make pancakes.
17thNational Random Acts of Kindness DayAction: Try to do one act of kindness today.
20thNational Love Your Pet DayPhoto competition: Who can post the most adorable photo of their pet?
21stInternational Mother Language Day  Poll: How many languages do you speak?
25thNational Chili DayFood: Who doesn’t like a good Chili? Why not share your best recipe?
View all global observances in February 2021