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Calendar of Holidays & Observances

The merry month of May celebrates spring in full swing and provides many opportunities for inclusion celebrations and events. Below are a number of holidays, observances and commemorations in May to help you celebrate equity, diversity and inclusion. Share your celebrations with us on social media by using the hashtag #IamDEI. We welcome additions to this list – please email us at edi@untsystem.edu.

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month - May 1 - 31    
We pay tribute to the generations of Asian and Pacific Islanders who have enriched America’s history and ensured its future success throughout May.

Jewish American Heritage Month - May 1 - 31  
We recognize and celebrate the diverse contributions of the Jewish people to American culture.

Mental Health Awareness Month - May 1 - 31    
Each year millions of Americans face the reality of living with a mental illness. During May, several organizations join the national movement to raise awareness about mental health. Each year we fight stigma, provide support, educate the public and advocate for policies that support people with mental illness and their families.

Beltane (Celtic/Pagan/Wiccan) - May 1   
An ancient Celtic festival celebrated on May Day, halfway between the spring equinox and the summer solstice.  Symbolic fire was one of the main rituals of the festival, helping to celebrate the return of life and fertility to the world.  Since the late 20th century, Celtic neopagans and Wiccans have observed Beltane or a related festival as a religious holiday.

Star Wars Day May 4    
May the Fourth be with you!  A galaxy far, far away has been celebrated on May 4 since 2011. The first event, held in Toronto, included an Original Trilogy Trivia Game Show, a costume contest, and a showing of fan-made tribute films, mash-ups, parodies, and remixes.

Cinco de Mayo - May 5  
A Mexican holiday commemorating the Mexican army’s 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War (1861-1867), Cinco de Mayo celebrates Mexican culture and heritage. It is primarily observed by Mexican Americans, and it may be celebrated by parades, parties, mariachi music, or traditional Mexican foods.

National Day of Prayer (Christian) - May 6    
Established in 1952, this is a day of observance in the United States when people are asked to “turn to God in prayer and meditation.” Two stated intentions of the National Day of Prayer were that it would be a day when adherents of all great religions could unite in prayer and that it may one day bring renewed respect for God to all the peoples of the world.

Laylat al-Qadr (Muslim) - May 9    
Known as the “Night of Power,” this holiday is the holiest night of the year for Muslims. It commemorates the night that the Quran was first revealed to the prophet Muhammad and is traditionally celebrated on the 27th day of Ramadan.

National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day May 9    
Each year, National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day seeks to raise awareness about the importance of children's mental health and show that positive mental health is essential to a child's healthy development.

Eid al-Fitr (Muslim) - May 12-13    
The “Feast of the Breaking of the Fast” marks the end of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting from dawn until dusk. Many Muslims attend communal prayers, listen to a khutuba (sermon), and give Zakat al-Fitr (charity in the form of food) during Eid al-Fitr.\

Ascension of Jesus (Western Christian) - May 13    
The Christian teaching that Christ physically departed from Earth by rising into Heaven in the presence of eleven of his apostles. The Feast of the Ascension is celebrated on the 40th day of Easter, always a Thursday; the Orthodox tradition has a different calendar up to a month later than in the Western tradition, and while the Anglican Communion continues to observe the feast, many Protestant churches have abandoned the observance.

Shavout (Jewish) - May 16-18    
The “Feast of Weeks” is a Jewish holiday that has double significance.  It marks the all-important wheat harvest in Israel, and it celebrates the covenant established at Mount Sinai between God and Israel and the revelation of the Ten Commandments.

International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia - May 17  
A global celebration of sexual-orientation and gender diversities which aims to coordinate international efforts to raise awareness of LGBTQ+ rights. The date was chosen to honor the decision to remove homosexuality from the International Classifications of Diseases of the WHO in 1990.

Armed Forces Day - May 18    
On August 31, 1949, Defense Secretary Louis Johnson announced the creation of an Armed Forces Day to replace separate Army, Navy and Air Force Days. The single-day celebration stemmed from the unification of the armed forces under one agency – the Department of Defense.

Birthday of Malcolm X - May 19    
Malcolm X was a civil rights leader and prominent figure in the Nation of Islam. He articulated concepts of race pride and Black nationalism in the early 1960s. May 19, his birthday, is an American commemorative event (“Malcolm X Day”).

Buddha Day (Buddhist) - May 19/May 26    
A Buddhist festival that marks Gautama Buddha's birth, enlightenment and death. It falls on the day of the full moon in May and it is a gazetted holiday in India. In South and Southeast Asia, the Buddha's birth is celebrated as part of Vesak, a festival that also celebrates the Buddha's enlightenment and death. In East Asia, the awakening and death of the Buddha are observed as separate holidays.

World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development - May 21    
The United Nations General Assembly first declared this World Day in 2002, following UNESCO’s adoption of the 2001 Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity, recognizing the need to “enhance the potential of culture as a means of achieving prosperity, sustainable development and global peaceful coexistence.”  Held every year on 21 May, the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development celebrates not only the richness of the world’s cultures, but also the essential role of intercultural dialogue for achieving peace and sustainable development.

Declaration of the Bab (Baháʼí) - May 23    
Commemoration of May 23, 1844, when the Báb, the prophet-herald of the Bahá’í Faith, announced in Shíráz, Persia, that he was the herald of a new messenger of God.

Pentecost (Christian) - May 23    
The Christian holiday of Pentecost is celebrated on the 50th day (the seventh Sunday) after Easter Sunday. Also known as Whitsunday, it commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and other followers of Jesus while they were in Jerusalem celebrating the Feast of Weeks, as described in the Acts of the Apostles, and is considered the birth of the Christian church.

Ascension of Bahá'u'lláh (Bahá’í) - May 29    
Observance of the anniversary of the death in exile and commemoration of the ascension of Bahá’u’lláh, the prophet-founder of the Bahá’í Faith.

All Saints’ Day (Eastern Christian) - ​​​​​​​May 30    
Observed in Orthodox churches on the first Sunday after Pentecost, it commemorates all known and unknown Christian saints.

Memorial Day (United States) - May 31    
Memorial Day is an American holiday, observed on the last Monday of May, honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military.