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National Hispanic Heritage Month
National Hispanic Heritage Month is a national observance authorized by Public Law 100-402 which states:
The President is hereby authorized and requested to issue annually a proclamation designating the 31-day period beginning September 15 and ending on October 15 as "National Hispanic Heritage Month" and calling upon the people of the United States, especially the educational community, to observe such month with appropriate ceremonies and activities.
The observation was initiated in 1968 as National Hispanic Heritage Week but was expanded in 1988 to include the entire 31-day period.
LGBT Awareness Month
LGBT Awareness Month is a month-long annual observance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender history, and the history of the gay rights and related civil rights movements. It is observed during October in the United States, to include National Coming Out Day on October 11.
National Disability Employment Awareness Month
Held each October, National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) is a national campaign that raises awareness about disability employment issues and celebrates the many and varied contributions of America's workers with disabilities. The theme for 2013 is "Because We Are EQUAL to the Task."
NDEAM's roots go back to 1945, when Congress enacted a law declaring the first week in October each year "National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week." In 1962, the word "physically" was removed to acknowledge the employment needs and contributions of individuals with all types of disabilities. In 1988, Congress expanded the week to a month and changed the name to "National Disability Employment Awareness Month." Upon its establishment in 2001, ODEP assumed responsibility for NDEAM and has worked to expand its reach and scope ever since.
Native American Heritage Month
On August 3, 1990 President George H. W. Bush declared the month of November as the first Native American Heritage Month. The Bill read in part that “the President has authorized and requested to call upon Federal, State and local Governments, groups and organizations and the people of the United States to observe such month with appropriate programs, ceremonies and activities”. This was a landmark Bill honoring America’s Tribal people.
This commemorative month aims to provide a platform for native people to share their culture, traditions, music, crafts, dance, and ways and concepts of life. This gives native people the opportunity to express to their community, both city, county and state officials their concerns and solutions for building bridges of understanding and friendship in their local area.
Diwali (Festival of Lights)
Diwali is a five day Hindu festival which occurs on the fifteenth day of Kartika. Diwali means "rows of lighted lamps" and the celebration is often referred to as the Festival of Lights. During this time, homes are thoroughly cleaned and windows are opened to welcome Laksmi, goddess of wealth. Candles and lamps are lit as a greeting to Laksmi. Gifts are exchanged and festive meals are prepared during Diwali. The celebration means as much to Hindus as Christmas does to Christians.
Because there are many regions in India, there are many manifestations of the Diwali festival. In at least one area, the festival begins with Dhanteras, a day set aside to worship Laksmi. In the Indian culture, wealth is not viewed as a corruptive power. Instead, a wealthy person is considered to have been rewarded for good deeds of a past life.
On the second day Kali, the goddess of Strength, is worshipped. This day also focuses on abolishing laziness and evil.
On the third day (the last day of the year in the lunar calendar), lamps are lighted and shine brightly in every home. The lamp symbolizes knowledge and encourages reflection upon the purpose of each day in the festival. The goal is to remember the purpose throughout the year.
The fourth day of Diwali falls on the first day of the lunar New Year. At this time, old business accounts are settled and new books are opened. The books are worshipped in a special ceremony and participants are encouraged to remove anger, hate, and jealousy from their lives.
On the final day (Balipratipada) of the festival, Bali, an ancient Indian king, is recalled. Bali destroyed the centuries old philosophies of the society. However, in addition to this, he is remembered for being a generous person. Thus, the focus of this day is to see the good in others, including enemies.
Because there is no one universally accepted Hindu calendar, this holiday may be celebrated on a different date in some parts of India, but it always falls in the months of October or November.
World AIDS Day
World AIDS Day is held on 1 December each year and is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died. World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day and the first one was held in 1988.
Visit WorldAIDSDay.org to learn more.
Kwanzaa is an African-American cultural festival beginning on December 26 and ending on January 1. The festival was created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Ron Karenga. Dr. Karenga's goal was to establish a holiday that would facilitate African-American goals of building a strong family, learning about African-American history, and developing unity.
While developing the new holiday, Dr. Karenga studied many African festivals and found many of them to be harvest related. Because of this, he named the celebration Kwanzaa from the Kiswahili word meaning "first fruits."
Karenga identified seven principles, the Nguzo Saba, of the African-American culture and incorporated them into Kwanzaa. The principles are Umoja (unity), Kujichagulia (self-determination), Ujima (collective work and responsibility), Ujamaa (cooperative economics), Nia (purpose), Kuumba (creativity), and Imani (faith).
Before the Kwanzaa celebration begins, a straw mat (Mkeka) is placed on a table. A Kinara (seven-candle candle holder) and Mshumaa (the seven candles) are placed on the Mkeka along with Muhindi (ears of corn) and theKikombe Cha Umoja (unity cup). The seven candles include three red ones placed on the right, three green ones placed on the left, and a black one placed in the center. The black candle represents the African-American people, the red candles represent their struggles, and the green ones represent their vision for the future.
Each day of Kwanzaa focuses upon one of the seven principles. After a candle-lighting ceremony, participants discuss what the principle means to them. Gifts are also exchanged during this time. A Karamu (feast) featuring traditional food, a ceremony honoring ancestors, music, and dancing is held on December 31.
Black History Month
Black History Month is the successor to Negro History Week which was initiated on February 12, 1926 by Carter G. Woodson, a pre-eminent historian and founder of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. Woodson was concerned that the contributions of Black Americans were overlooked or misrepresented and he began lobbying for Negro History Week as early as 1915. He selected February because it included the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln(February 12) and Frederick Douglass (February 14) whom he believed had dramatically impacted the lives of Black Americans.
In 1976, Woodson's legacy, now renamed the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History, successfully lobbied to extend Black History Week into a month-long observance.
Each year, a new theme is chosen for Black History Month.
Women's History Month
National Women's History Month was initiated by the National Women's History Project (NWHP), a nonprofit educational organization founded in 1980 to "promote gender equity through education about women's diverse lives and accomplishments." The organization was an outgrowth of a 1978 California committee formed to address the lack of inclusion of women's history in the educational curriculum of K-12 schools. IN 1981, the NWHP successfully lobbied lobbied Congress to declare a Joint Congressional Resolution for "National Women's History Week." Congress expanded the celebration to an entire month in 1987.
Passover is an eight day observance which begins at sunset on the 15th day of Nisan in the Hebrew calendar. During this time, Jews celebrate the flight of the Israelites from Egyptian slavery in the 1200's B. C. E.
A ceremonial feast known as the Seder takes place on the first two nights of Passover. Symbolic foods, including unleavened bread, are placed on the table.
The word Passover is derived from the tenth plague God placed on Egypt for keeping the Israelites in slavery. According to the Bible, God killed the first born child in Egyptian homes but "passed over" the Israelites' homes which were marked with the blood of lambs.
Cinco de Mayo
Cinco de May commemorates the May 5, 1862 Battle of Puebla (Batalla de Puebla) in which General Ignacio Zaragoza's Mexican troops defeated Napolean III's French forces. France, along with England and Spain, had occupied Mexico since mid-1861 as a result of President Benito Juarez' moratorium on foreign debt payments. Eventually England and Spain withdrew but the French remained in an attempt to create an empire in Mexico. The French began a military advance on Mexico and on May 5, 1862, about 5,000 Mestizo and Zapotec Indians defeated Napolean's army.
Many people confuse Cinco de Mayo with Mexican Independence Day (September 16, 1810). Cinco de Mayo is celebrated more in the United States than in Mexico and many people of Mexican descent celebrate with parades, music, and dancing.
Asian American Heritage Month
Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month was enacted by Public Law 102-450 on October 28, 1992. The purpose of the law was to honor the achievements of Asian/Pacific Americans and to recognize their contributions to the United States. This recognition was the culmination of Jeanie Jew's efforts in the 1970's to establish Asian Pacific American Heritage Week. Following the United States bicentennial in 1976, Jew realized that Asian Pacific Americans were ". . .were excluded from those stories during celebrations of the country's bicentennial. We were literally ignored even though we were part of building this country."
A year later, Jew enlisted the support of Rep. Frank Horton (R-NY) who, along with Rep. Norman Mineta, (D-CA), introduced House Resolution 540. This resolution proclaimed the first ten days of May as Asian Pacific American Heritage Week. Senators Daniel Inouye and Spark Matsunaga introduced similar legislation into the Senate.
May was selected for the recognition because two significant events in history took place in that month: Japanese immigrants first arrived in the United States on May 7, 1843, and the transcontinental railroad was completed on May 10, 1869 (Golden Spike Day). Furthermore, since school is still in session during May, educators could capitalize on the opportunity to include APA history into the curriculum.
On Oct. 2, 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed the Joint Resolution and the first Asian Pacific American Heritage Week was celebrated in May 1979. In 1992, the week was expanded to a month-long recognition when President George Bush signed the law permanently designating May of each year as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. The law was unanimously supported by both the House of Representatives and the Senate.