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Calendar of Holidays & Observances

DEI Event Calendar: October

October has so many opportunities to celebrate diversity, it’s spooky!  Below are just a few holidays, observances and commemorations to help you celebrate equity, varying diversity dimensions, and inclusion in October. Share your celebration with us on social media: #IamEDI.  We welcome additions to this list – please email us at

National Disability Employment Awareness Month
Also known as NDEAM, this observance was launched in 1945 when Congress declared the first week in October as “National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week.” In 1998, the week was extended to a month and renamed. The annual event draws attention to employment barriers that still need to be addressed.  The theme for NDEAM 2021, “America’s Recovery: Powered by Inclusion,” reflects the importance of ensuring that people with disabilities have full access to employment and community involvement during the national recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

LGBT History Month
LGBT History Month provides role models, builds community, and represents a civil rights statement about the contributions of the LGBTQ+ community.  It was founded in 1994 by Missouri high-school history teacher Rodney Wilson.  In the United States, Canada, and Australia, it is celebrated in October to coincide with National Coming Out Day on October 11 and to commemorate the first and second marches on Washington for LGBT rights, in 1979 and 1987.

Global Diversity Awareness Month
Global Diversity Awareness Month celebrates the values, contributions, and diversity of cultures and communities around the world.  By elevating diverse voices, we highlight the unique perspectives each individual brings to the table. Global Diversity Awareness Month is a wonderful opportunity to seek out and promote diversity of thought and experience within our workplaces and communities.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month
Breast cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in women.  Breast Cancer Awareness Month aims to raise funds for research into its cause, prevention, diagnosis, treatment and cure.  A variety of events around the world are organized in October, including walks and runs, and the pink illumination of landmark buildings.  You can show support during this month by donating to a breast cancer research foundation.

National Polish American Heritage Month
2021 marks the 40th anniversary of Polish American Heritage Month.  Originally held in August, the celebration was moved to October in 1986.  October holds special significance for Polish-Americans as this is when Polish settlers first arrived at Jamestown, VA in 1608.  The main objective of Polish American Heritage Month is to highlight the contributions Poles and Polish Americans have made to the United States, celebrate our achievements and cultural heritage, and share its beauty with community at large.

St. Francis Day (Catholic) - October 4
The feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals and the environment, commemorates the saint’s transition from this life to the afterlife and is celebrated by many Catholic denominations.  Born to a wealthy cloth merchant during the late 12th century, St. Francis founded the men’s Order of Friars Minor and the women’s Order of Saint Clare, among many others.  He is remembered for his generosity to the poor and his willingness to minister to the lepers. However, what many people recall about him is his love for animals and nature.

World Animal Day - October 4
World Animal Day is an international day of action to raise the status of animals and improve their welfare and is celebrated annually on the feast day of Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals. First held in 1925, the day is a means of drawing attention to animal welfare issues across the globe by encouraging businesses, schools, clubs and others to organize and participate in various World Animal Day events, with the goal of improving the lives of all animals through recognition and awareness.

 Navaratri (Hindu) - October 6-14  
A nine-night autumn festival honoring the divine feminine Devi (Durga), Navaratri is observed for different reasons and celebrated differently in various parts of the Indian cultural sphere. In all cases, the common theme is the battle and victory of good over evil based on a regionally famous epic or legend.

World Mental Health Day - October 10    
First celebrated in 1993, this day is meant to increase public awareness about the importance of mental health, mental health services, and mental health workers worldwide.  It provides the opportunity for everyone working on mental health issues to discuss their work. It also advocates for what should be done to make mental healthcare a reality for people worldwide.

Indigenous Peoples’ Day - October 11    
You probably grew up hearing this holiday called “Columbus Day.” In 1992, Berkeley, CA became the first city to rename Columbus Day as Indigenous People’s Day, to honor Native American people, their history and culture. Take a stand on this day by supporting indigenous people’s rights organizations.

National Coming Out Day (U.S.) - October 11  
For those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, this day celebrates coming out and the recognition of the 1987 march on Washington for gay and lesbian equality.  The foundational belief is that homophobia thrives in an atmosphere of silence and ignorance, and that once people know that they have loved ones who are lesbian or gay, they are far less likely to maintain homophobic or oppressive views.

Thanksgiving (Canada) - October 11  
This holiday, held annually on the second Monday in October, is a chance for people to give thanks for a good harvest and other fortunes in the past year.

Ada Lovelace Day - October 13    
Ada Lovelace Day highlights the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Launched in 2009 as a celebration of women in science, the event promotes programs that encourage girls and women to pursue careers in STEM.  A daughter of Lord Byron, Ada Lovelace is widely known as the first person to recognize the potential of early computers and published what is considered to be the first algorithm.  Ada Lovelace Day aims to promote STEM education and honor the teachers, researchers, technicians, advocates, and others who champion the importance of science and math.

Vijayadashami (Hindu) - October 15  
Observed for different reasons and celebrated differently in various parts of the Indian subcontinent, this is a major Hindu festival celebrated at the end of Navaratri every year. In the southern, eastern, northeastern, and some northern states of India, Vijayadashami marks the end of Durga Puja, remembering goddess Durga's victory over the buffalo demon Mahishasura to restore and protect dharma.  In the northern, central and western states, the festival is synonymously called Dussehra and marks the end of Ramlila, remembering the god Rama's victory over the Ravan.

Eid Milad un-Nabi (Muslim) - October 18-19    
Also known as Mawlid, Mawlid Al-Nabi, or Mawlid an-Nabi ash-Sharif, this Islamic holiday commemorates the birth of the prophet Muhammad and is celebrated in different ways by different sects. Some celebrations take place simply in private homes; other Muslims decorate their local mosque with lights and hold large festive gatherings. Celebrations may include sharing food; attending lectures about the Prophet’s life and virtues; attending prayer services; participating in marches; and reciting the Qur’an, litanies, and devotional poetry of the Prophet.

International Pronouns Day - October 20  
First celebrated in 2018, International Pronouns Day seeks to make respecting, sharing, and educating about personal pronouns commonplace. Referring to people by the pronouns they determine for themselves is basic to human dignity and celebrates people’s multiple, intersecting identities.

 LGBTQ+ Spirit Day - October 21  
Started in 2010 by Canadian teenager Brittany McMillan, Spirit Day was initially created to demonstrate support for LGBTQ+ youth and to speak out against bullying in response to a rash of widely publicized bullying-related suicides of gay school students.  Observers wear the color purple as a visible sign of support for LGBTQ youth and against bullying, as well as to honor LGBTQ victims of suicide.  The name "Spirit Day" comes from an association with the purple stripe of the Rainbow flag. Flag creator Gilbert Baker described the purple stripe as representing “spirit.”  

Latinx Women’s Equal Pay Day - October 21    
Latinx Women’s Equal Pay Day -- the day when Latinx women’s pay catches up to that of white, non-Hispanic men from the previous year -- is being observed on October 21, 2021. The aim is to raise awareness about the wider-than-average pay gap between Latinx women and white men. Latinx women are paid 57 cents for every dollar paid to white men.

Halloween - October 31    
Also known as All Hallows’ Eve, a celebration observed in a number of countries on the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows' Day.  Today's Halloween customs, such as dressing in costumes and trick-or-treating, are thought to have been influenced by folk customs and beliefs from the Celtic-speaking countries, some of which are believed to have pagan roots, as well as by Christian dogma.

Reformation Day (Protestant) - October 31    
Reformation Day is a Protestant Christian religious holiday in remembrance of the onset of the Reformation.  It marks the day in 1517 when Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-five Theses to the door of All Saints' Church, Wittenberg, in what is now Germany.  This event is now considered to be the birth of Protestantism and the Protestant Reformation.

Samhain (Gaelic/Celtic, Wiccan/Pagan) - October 31-November 1    
A Gaelic festival marking the end of the harvest season and ushering in winter or the "darker half" of the year, Samhain is the most significant of the four Gaelic seasonal festivals.  Celtic neopagans and Wiccans have observed Samhain, or something based on it, as a religious holiday since the late 20th century.  Modern celebrants believe that the barriers between the physical world and the spirit world break down during Samhain, allowing more interaction between humans and denizens of the Otherworld.