Daffodils are the traditional flowers of March

March 2019 Cultural Diversity Review

Cultural Diversity Women's Day

March 2019 is a month of masks and mischief that starts on Monday 4 March as Carnivals erupt in a riot of colour and music onto the streets of Latin America and beyond.

Carnivals began in medieval Europe as a last chance to party before Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. This prelude to Easter is 20 days later than last year. That’s not to say the month would be short of major festivals without Carnival, as March is traditionally the time of year that brings the start of Spring in the Northern Hemisphere.

Over 300 million people will mark Spring with Persian New Year on 21 March; and Balinese New Year, and the Hindu festivals of Maha Shivaratri and Holi also bring colour and life to this month.

Month info: March gets its name from the Roman Martius, which was Latin for Mars, the Greek god of war. Mars was also an agricultural deity, which helps explain why such a warlike god was assigned to a month, at the start of Spring, which is celebrated with festivals about rebirth rather than death.

Featured Holiday in March

March 8: International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day is celebrated on 8th March.

Unfortunately in many countries, Woman’s Day is seen to have the same status as Mother’s Day – an almost patronizing day to say thanks to all you women for all you do. It may surprise you to learn that 27 countries have adopted International Women’s Day as a national holiday; and it is widely observed in several others, and notably in 2019, Berlin has become the first jurisdiction within the European Union to mark Women’s Day with a public holiday.

In China, women are entitled to take a half day off. In total, this means that about 15% of the world will be enjoying some sort of public holiday on 8th March.

In 1977, the United Nations declared 8th March as International Women’s Day, a day each year when the world should celebrate, recognise and remember women and the accomplishments they have made to society. Each year has a theme:

  • 2019: Think equal, build smart, innovate for change
  • 2018: #PressforProgress
  • 2017: “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030”

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Women’s Day, but what about women’s days?

On the subject of countries and women, did you know there are 25 sovereign nations that are named after people, but only one is a named after a female, Saint Lucia. Saint Lucy (Lucia) of Syracuse was a young Christian martyr who died during the Diocletianic Persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire of 304 AD.

Women’s Day is to be lauded, but maybe it hides a very wide ‘gender gap’ between other public holidays that celebrate people. In this blog post, we look at how public holidays remains a very male-dominated area.

Read about women’s days

Notable Holidays in March

March 7: Hari Raya Nyepi

Hari Raya Nyepi is the Balinese Hindu New Year. The arrival of Spring is the time of year when the Lord of Hell sends all the devils to Bali, who must then be cleared out to purify the island before the new year begins.

The evil spirits are driven away by the local people who parade with massive papier-mache effigies of the evil spirits. In the evening the effigies are ceremoniously burnt, followed by dancing, drinking feasting and generally unabashed partying.

This noisy, brash festival is then followed by Nyepi, the Balinese “Day of Silence”. Beginning at 6 am and lasting until 6 am the following day, Nyepi is a day intended for self-reflection and anything that might disturb this is not allowed.

This means no cooking or fires, no entertainment, no travelling and no work of any kind is permitted. The airport in Bali will also be closed and telecommunications companies even switch off internet services for a 24 hour period.

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March 17: Ireland: St. Patrick’s Day

St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, is a widely known historic figure and arguably the most famous patron saint of a country.

Despite this level of fame, we know surprisingly few details abut his life. Interestingly he’s not the only recognised patron saint of Ireland, both ‘Brigid of Kildare’ and ‘Columba’ are officially recognised as such.

Today, St. Patrick’s Day is a day to recognise Irish heritage and celebrated by people of all backgrounds in many parts of the world, such as the United States, Canada, and Australia.

It was first publicly celebrated in the United States of America in Boston in 1737. Surprisingly, the first recorded St. Patrick’s Day parade didn’t actually take place in Ireland, when on 17 March 1762, Irish soldiers serving in the English military marched through New York City.

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March 21: Novruz

Novruz celebrates the Persian New Year, and the beginning of Spring. Novruz means ‘New Day’.

Novruz will be a public holiday for around 187 million people in 11 countries, from Albania to Kazakhstan.

This is an ancient holiday, which can be traced back 5,000 years to the Sumerian and the Babylonian civilisations. Novruz begins on either 20 March or 21 March, on the spring equinox, when the days and nights are equal length, with days then becoming longer signifying the arrival of warmer weather.

During Nowruz, people visit family members and friends and exchange gifts. Many cultures have different customs during Novruz. For isntance, in Iran, families set up a “haft seen” (meaning “seven s’s”), a display which includes seven items beginning with the latter S that each represent spring and new beginnings. For instance, the display will contain ‘sabzeh’. This is wheat or barley or lentil sprouts, grown in a dish and represents rebirth.

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March 21: Holi

The festival of Holi is celebrated on the day after the full moon in early March every year. It is a holiday across India, Nepal, Guyuana and Suriname.

Holi was originally a festival to celebrate the start of Spring, good harvests and fertility of the land. The first mentions of it date back to a poem from the 4th century.

Today it is better known as a symbolic commemoration of a legend from Hindu Mythology. The story is that there was once a king who resented his son, Prince Prahlada, worshipping Lord Vishnu. He tries to murder the prince on several occasions but fails each time.

Finally, the king’s sister Holika who is said to be immune to burning, sits with the boy inside a fire. However, the prince emerges unhurt, while his aunt burns in the fire and dies. Holi remembers this event, and huge bonfires are burnt on the eve of Holi as a symbolic representation.

The famous tradition of throwing brightly coloured powder and water is said to come from the love story between two Hindu gods, Radha and Krishna.

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National Days in March

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

Mar 01 Wales, United KingdomSt. David’s Day: St. David is the patron saint of Wales
Mar 03 BulgariaLiberation Day: Marks the Treaty of San Stefano signed on 3 Mar 1878
Mar 06 GhanaIndependence Day: Independence from the United Kingdom 1957
Mar 12 MauritiusIndependence Day: Independence from the United Kingdom in 1968
Mar 15 HungarySt. Stephen’s Day: St. Stephen of Hungary (Szent István király) was the first king of Hungary and he laid the
Mar 17 IrelandSt. Patrick’s Day: St Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland
Mar 17 Northern IrelandSt. Patrick’s Day: St Patrick is the patron saint of Northern Ireland
Mar 18 ArubaFlag day: The Flag of Aruba was officially adopted on 18 March 1976, along with the official anthem.
Mar 20 TunisiaIndependence Day: Declaration of independence from France 1956
Mar 21 NamibiaIndependence Day: Independence from South African mandate in 1990
Mar 25 GreeceIndependence Day: Declaration of independence from Ottoman Empire 1821
Mar 26 BangladeshIndependence Day: Declaration of independence from Pakistan in 1971
Mar 31 United States Virgin IslandsTransfer Day: Transfer of the islands from Denmark to the United States in 1917

March 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.

1stWorld Book DayDiscussion: Many children dress up as book characters to mark World Book Day. What is your favorite character from a book?
1stNational Employee Appreciation DayThis should be celebrated every day, but if you are a manager or team leader, why not bring the love with some plaudits, or cookies?
3rdNational Anthem DayQuiz: How many National Anthems can you recognize?
3rdWorld Wildlife DayActivity: how many different animals can you spot from your office today? How does that compare to colleagues around the world?
10thMario DayNot much to say about this day, but we think Mar10 being Mario Day is kind of neat.
21stWorld Poetry DayDiscussion: What is your favorite poem? And why.
30thNational Take a Walk in the Park DayPoll: Do you have a park or area nearby that you go for a walk at lunchtime? If not, is it something you miss?