• Pete Karolczak

November Global Traditions

If you’ve been reading my monthly posts, you know by now that there were only 10 months in the Roman calendar. So, it should come as no surprise that November derives from the Latin root novem- meaning “nine.” We are almost at the end of this calendar year – and some of us prepare for winter, some of us prepare for summer and many of us near the equator prepare for November ;)



November is Native American Heritage Month – celebrating the indigenous people of the US, spreading awareness and educating people about the various challenges faced by the Native Americans in the past and today.


As a carryover from our last month, The Day of the Dead (Día de Muertos or Día de los Muertos) continues on the 1st and 2nd of November. It originated and is mostly observed in Mexico but also in other places, especially by people of Mexican heritage elsewhere. Although associated with the Catholic celebrations of All Saints’ Day (or All Souls’ Day), it has a much less solemn tone, which I prefer! The multi-day holiday involves family and friends gathering to pay respects and to remember friends and family members who have died.


November 1st is All Saints Day - a special feast day on which Catholics celebrate all the saints, known and unknown. While most saints have a particular feast day on the Catholic calendar (usually, though not always, the date of their death), not all those feast days are observed so this is the catch-all feast day!


November 3rd is Culture Day in Japan – a national holiday to honor traditional Japanese culture and promote freedom and peace. It has been a public holiday since 1948, yet officially adopted in 1946 after the Second World War


November 4th is Diwali or Deepawali, also known as the ‘festival of lights,’ is usually celebrated in October or November. This year, we get to start celebrating on November 4! Lasting over five days, the holiday is celebrated by millions of Hindus, Jains, and Sikhs worldwide. The name of this festival is derived from ‘avali,’ which means ‘row,’ and ‘deepa,’ meaning ‘clay lamps.’ When merged, these words mean ‘a row of lights.’ For this reason, lights are symbolic of this festival and Indians go overboard with sparklers and fireworks to fuel the inner light that spiritually protects them from the darkness. It’s a wonderful celebration and I’ll be in London to celebrate it!


Remember, Remember the Fifth of November! The Gunpowder Plot conspirators planned to blow up the Houses of Parliament intending to kill the king and members of Parliament in order to clear the way to reestablishing Catholic rule in England. The plan failed when the conspirators were betrayed. One of them, Guy Fawkes was taken into custody the evening before the attack, in the cellar where the explosives were stashed. Today Guy Fawkes Day is celebrated with parades, fireworks, bonfires, and food!


Veterans Day, observed annually on November 11, is a tribute to military veterans who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces. Not to be confused with Memorial Day, which honors those who died while in service, Veterans Day honors all military veterans, including those still with us.


Also on November 11, Remembrance Day is observed in the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and all the other Commonwealth nations. It carries much of the same meaning as America’s Veterans Day. Celebrated since the end of WWI, Remembrance Day is also celebrated as Armistice Day.


Armistice Day is a public holiday on November 11 in France and other European nations, commemorating the signing of the armistice between Germany and the Allies that led to the ceasefire and finally put an end to World War I in 1918. It is a time of happiness that commemorates the end of the war but, at the same time, the day is observed in honor of the veterans who lost their lives for their country. Known as ‘Jour d’armistice’ in French, a one-minute silence in remembrance of the fallen is held at 11 A.M. with military parades organized across the country for the rest of the day.


National Independence Day is a national day in Poland, celebrated on the 11th of November to commemorate the anniversary of the restoration of Poland's sovereignty as the Second Polish Republic in 1918 from the German, Austro-Hungarian and Russian Empires. In the late 18th century, Poland ceased to exist for 123 years until the end of WWI, when the country was able to reemerge.


Sadie Hawkins Day, celebrated on November 13 each year, is a day for a bit of gender role reversal — where we acknowledge the antiquity of ‘traditional’ roles and women become the pursuers of their crushes and ask men out on dates or for a dance.


Book Week in Scotland takes place this year from November 15-21 and celebrates books, reading, and all things literature. It’s a great excuse to get lost in a great story!


Perhaps one of the most visually mesmerizing celebrations in the world, the Loi Krathong festival in Thailand is a favorite memory for all who experience the magic. This year, it’s celebrated on November 20th! During Loi Krathong, thousands of small, candlelit floats (krathongs) are released on rivers and waterways as offerings to the river spirits. In Chiang Mai and other parts of Northern Thailand, the Loi Krathong festival also coincides with a Lanna festival known as Yi Peng. The two celebrations usually get rounded together as "Loi Krathong,” but when travelers talk of seeing the thousands of candle-powered sky lanterns launched in Thailand, they are technically referencing the Yi Peng festival in Northern Thailand. I have been in Thailand during this festival and it’s beautiful!


America’s Thanksgiving holiday, born in the 1500s (mythologized in 1621) is one of the most anticipated and beloved days in the US - celebrated each year on the fourth Thursday in November (November 25, 2021). Perhaps no other nonsectarian holiday has more tradition. Family, friends, food, and American football have come to symbolize Thanksgiving — a rare celebratory holiday without an established gift-giving component. Instead, the day urges all of us to be grateful for things we have and celebrate family and friends. It really is a lovely tradition.


Sadly, after a day dedicated to everything BUT commercialism, Black Friday on November 26 is the opposite. It’s the day of the year when retailers finally start generating profit, thus going from “being in the red” to “being in the black” because the Friday after Thanksgiving is the biggest shopping day of the year.


The Jewish Festival of Rededication, also called the Festival of Lights, is an eight-day celebration that falls each year on the Hebrew calendar date of 25 Kislev, which generally falls in December in the Gregorian calendar. In 2021, Hanukkah is earlier than usual – starting on November 28 through December 6! Hanukkah, also referred to as Chanukah, celebrates the rededication of the second Jewish temple in Jerusalem. It also celebrates a miracle that happened during this time, where just a day’s supply of oil allowed the menorah in the re-dedicated Temple to remain lit for eight days!


St Andrew’s Day is a national holiday in Scotland that is celebrated with feasts on November 30th. It is also Scotland’s national day, marking the beginning of Scotland as a nation!


As a shout-out to my many friends in the Philippines, let’s wind up the month with Bonifacio Day! Observed on November 30th, Bonifacio Day is a national holiday that commemorates and celebrates the birthday of Andrés Bonifacio; president of the Tagalog Republic and a Filipino revolutionary leader. He was also one of the founding members and Supreme Leader of the Kataas-taasang, a movement that sought Philippine independence from Spanish Colonial Rule.

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