Daffodils are the traditional flowers of March

March 2020 Cultural Diversity Review

Cultural Diversity

March 2020 is a month of rebirth and renewal as spring starts to push back winter in the Northern Hemisphere.

Over 300 million people will mark Spring with Persian New Year on March 21st; and Balinese New Year, and the Hindu festivals of Maha Shivaratri and Holi also bring color 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

An equal world is an enabled world

March 8: International Women’s Day

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

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 became 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 March 8th 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:

  • 2020: An equal world is an enabled world.
  • 2019: Think equal, build smart, innovate for change
  • 2018: #PressforProgress

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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 10: 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, Guyana and Suriname.

Holi was originally a festival to celebrate the start of Spring. 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, worshiping 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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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 recognized patron saint of Ireland, both ‘Brigid of Kildare’ and ‘Columba’ are officially recognized as such.

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

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?