Lily of the Valley is the traditional flower of May

May 2021 Cultural Diversity Review

Cultural Diversity General

May gets off a strong start with one of the biggest secular holidays of the year taking place on May 1st – International Workers’ Day. This holiday can trace it roots back to European pagan fire festivals celebrating the return of the sun at the end of winter. Nowadays however, any red on May day is likely to be in relation to the socialist movement rather than flames.

The middle of the month sees two important religious festivals fall on the same day; Eid al-Fitr, marking the end of the Islamic month of Ramadan and Ascension Day, a Christian holiday whose date depends on Easter – so even though all Easter eggs may have been eaten, Easter continues to have an influence on our calendars.

Month info: May was named for the Greek goddess Maia, who was identified with the Roman era goddess of fertility.

Featured Holiday in May

May 1st: International Workers’ Day

May Day is a public holiday in many countries on 1st May. It is most commonly associated as a commemoration of the achievements of the labour movement. The holiday may also be known as Labour Day or International Worker’s Day and is marked with a public holiday in over 80 countries.

The first day of May was a pagan holiday in many parts of Europe, Its roots as a holiday stretch back to the Gaelic Beltane. It was considered the last day of winter when the beginning of summer was celebrated. During Roman times, 1st May was seen as a key period to celebrate fertility and the arrival of spring. The Roman festival of Flora, the goddess of flowers and the season of spring, was held between 28 April and 3 May.

May Day has long been a focal point for demonstrations by various communist, socialist, and anarchist groups. The 1st May date is used because in 1884 the American Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions demanded an eight-hour workday, to come in effect as of 1 May 1886. This resulted in the general strike and the Haymarket Riot of 1886, but eventually also in the official sanction of the eight-hour workday.

Curiously (given the origin of the 1 May date), the United States celebrates Labor Day on the first Monday of September (1st May is Loyalty Day, a legal but not widely recognized holiday in the United States). There is some suggestion that the reason for this was to avoid the commemoration of riots that had occurred in 1886. The adoption of May Day by communists and socialists as their primary holiday have been as a another reason as they further inceased official resistance to May Day labor celebrations in America.

Read about Labour Day

May 13: Eid al-Fitr

The festival of Eid al-Fitr, the Festival of Fast breaking, marks the end of Ramadan.

Ramadan is one of the five pillars of the Islamic faith and is sacred to Muslims as it was during this month that the Qur’an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad.

Fasting during the holy month of Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam. Muslims believe that it was during the month of Ramadan that the text of the Qur’an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad.

Muslims celebrate Eid by saying prayers, giving money to the poor, sending Eid greetings and feasting with their families.

The phrase commonly used by Muslims as a greeting on this day is “Eid Mubarak”, which is Arabic for ‘blessed festival’.

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May 13: Ascension Day

Ascension Day is the 40th day of Easter and commemorates the ascension of Jesus into heaven 39 days after resurrection on Easter Sunday.

This Christian festival may also be known as The Feast of the Ascension, The Ascension of Jesus, Ascension Thursday or Holy Thursday.

During the forty-day period before he ascended into heaven, it is believed that Jesus preached and intermingled with his apostles and disciples. According to tradition, Ascension Day was first celebrated in 68 AD, however the first written evidence of the Ascension Day Feast occurred in 385 AD.

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May 26: Buddha Purnima

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.

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.

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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May 25: USA: Memorial Day

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in military service for the United States.

Many cities have laid claim to have begun Memorial Day, though President Lyndon Johnson officially declared Waterloo N.Y. as the birthplace of Memorial Day in May 1966.

While there is some dispute as to the origin of the day, the first was observed on May 30, 1868, under proclamation by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic. The first official observation involved placing flowers on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.

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Celebrate Diversity in May with our Video Backgrounds

Celebrate the important holidays and festivals during May with these video conference call backgrounds.

National Days in May

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

May 01Marshall IslandsConstitution Day: Celebrates self governance and adoption of the constitution in 1979
May 15ParaguayIndependence Day: Two day holiday. Día de Independencia. declaration of independence from Spain in 1811
May 17NorwayConstitution Day: The signing of the first Norwegian Constitution in Eidsvoll 1814
May 20CameroonNational Day: Creation of a unitary state in 1972
May 20East TimorProclamation of Independence day: Independence from Indonesia in 2002
May 22MartiniqueAbolition of slavery day: commemorates a slave rebellion in 1848 that forced the Governor to issue a decree abolishing slavery.
May 22YemenNational Day: North and South Yemen are unified as the Republic of Yemen 1990
May 24BermudaBermuda Day: Last Friday in May. Originally Queen Victoria’s birthday. Now celebrates the islands’ heritage.
May 24EritreaIndependence Day: Eritrean rebels enter the capital Asmara in 1991 leading to independence from Ethiopia
May 25JordanIndependence Day: Independence Day, from the United Kingdom 1946
May 26GeorgiaDay of First Republic: Independence from Russia in 1918
May 28 ArmeniaRepublic Day: Independence from the Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic in 1918
May 28 AzerbaijanRepublic Day: Independence from the Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic in 1918
May 28EthiopiaDownfall of the Derg Day: The Derg regime is defeated in 1991
May 30AnguillaAnguilla Day: The beginning of the Anguillian Revolution in 1967

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 organisation.

4thNational Teacher Appreciation DayDiscussion: Who was your favorite teacher at school – and why?
5thCinco de MayoIt is not a national holiday in Mexico, and is celebrated more in the US; but it’s still a great opportunity to celebrate Mexican heritage and culture.
6thWorld Password DayFollowing simple rules to ensure your passwords protect from unwanted access is an important part of modern life.
9thMother’s DayDid you know? The founder of Mothers’ Day, Anne Jarvis, never became a mother. More facts on Mother’s Day
12thNational Receptionists DayAction: If you go past your reception area, make sure to let the receptionists know this is their day!
For all observances in May 2021, visit