May 2021 - Celebrating Global Traditions
April showers bring May flowers? This saying can be traced back to England from the 1500s poet Thomas Tusser when he wrote “Sweet April showers do spring May Flowers.” May is the month of change and rebirth… and let’s hope we will slowly be able to see the end of this pandemic that has taken so many lives and impacted so many people. I am sending all my support and thoughts to my friends in India who are dealing with a particularly devastating surge. I hope you all are slowly getting vaccinated and able to return to partial normalcy. I received my second vaccination on May 1st this year!
May 1st is May Day and is a celebration of spring and new life. Cake, dances, and singing are usually part of the global May Day festivities with some wonderful local traditions. May Day is also historically associated with International Workers' Day or Labour (Labor) Day in many of the communist countries around the world. But my favorite May 1st celebration belongs to Hawaii; where May Day is also known as Lei Day and islanders celebrate their culture. There are lei-making competitions and revelers hand out lei to their family and friends.
Did you know that May 4th is Star Wars Day? One of my favorite days of the year, we celebrate Star Wars geekdom with our traditional greeting of May the Fourth be with You!
May 5th is Cinco de Mayo - the date is observed to commemorate the Mexican Army’s victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. More popularly celebrated in the United States than in Mexico, the date has become associated with the celebration of Mexican culture and often confused with Mexican Independence Day (which is September 16th). Still, it’s a wonderful excuse to pour a glass of Mezcal or good Tequila!
Victory in Europe Day (V-E Day or VE Day) is commemorated on May 8th. It is a national holiday in France known as 'Victoire 1945' and the day is also celebrated as an important holiday in several other countries in Europe. My father fought in WWII and was imprisoned after surrendering to the Nazis after the Warsaw Uprising. He was liberated soon after VE day, so this month is also an important time in our family.
Laylat al-Qadr - Sunday, May 9, 2021. For our Muslim friends and colleagues, we enter May still in the period of Ramadan. Within the last 10 days of Ramadan, Muslims around the world celebrate Laylat al-Qadr, meaning Night of Power or Destiny. This is when the first verses of the Qu'ran were revealed and is said to be the night when sins are forgiven. Many traditions observe it on the 27th night of Ramadan.
May 13th is Eid al-Fitr, a Festival marking the Breaking of the Fast, celebrates the end of Ramadan and the first day of the next month, Shawwal. This is a very important celebration and includes absolutely amazing food if you ever get a chance to participate.
Also on May 13th, we celebrate Hari Raya Puasa meaning the "Day of Celebration." It is an important religious festival celebrated by the Muslims in Singapore and Malaysia. On Hari Raya Puasa everyone put on new clothes, houses are thoroughly cleaned and decorated, people celebrate the evening with friends and families with delicious food like cakes, sweets, biscuits, ketupat, rending (a meat cuisine) etc.
May 14th Akshaya Tritiya is a very popular festival that the Hindus and Jains celebrate every year. It is considered as one of the most important days for Hindu community as it is the day of the birth of the Lord Parasurama. The Hindu community considers this day as a lucky day and believes that any venture such as a business or the construction of a building started on that day will follow betterment and prosperity.
On May 22, the US honors the life and legacy of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay politician in California and a leader of the American Civil Rights Movement. Milk was not only an advocate for the LGBTQ community, but for all minorities. He believed in safe, strong neighborhoods and supported public education, affordable childcare, and equal rights for all, as do I.
May 24th marks Victoria Day in Canada — the Monday before May 25 – and signifies the beginning of summer and the arrival of warmer, greener days. But much like Independence Day in the U.S., Victoria Day has more colonial roots than are usually discussed amidst all the fireworks and jolly gatherings. This day marks the birthday of Queen Victoria, who was the ruling monarch at the time of Canada’s birth as a country in 1867. It’s a day to celebrate all the wonderful things that make Canada, Canada.
May 26 is Vesak; a global celebration of Buddha’s birth, along with his enlightenment and death in some traditions. The holiday has been officially celebrated since 1950, when the World Fellowship of Buddhists formalized it as Buddha’s birthday. Vesak is a holiday common to all Buddhists, but is celebrated differently according to local customs. Because Vesak is based on the Asian lunisolar calendar, the day usually falls on the full moon in the Gregorian month of May, but this varies widely according to each country’s traditions.
May 31st is Memorial Day for many Americans, conjures up images of barbeques and summer. But the last Monday in May is really about honoring those who died while fighting in the U.S. Armed Forces. It’s a holiday steeped in somber American history and tradition. The day actually began as “Decoration Day,” following the Civil War, when mourners placed flowers on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers.