About the Calendar of Observances

The increasingly pluralistic population of the United States creates diverse communities, student bodies and employees. To enhance mutual understanding and respect among the various religious, ethnic and cultural groups, Manchester Community College has put together a Calendar of Observances.  This is intended to be a tool to increase awareness and sensitivity about religious obligations as well as ethnic and cultural festivities that may affect our students and colleagues.  It can be used as a resource when planning classroom activities and/or when scheduling festivities and events.


  • PHYSICALLY CHALLENGED AWARENESS MONTH..  Explores the world of those with physical challenges; celebrates the contributions of those with physical differences.
  • RAKSHA BANDHAN (Hindu). Also called Rakhi, this festival celebrates the protective relationship between
  • RAMADAN (Islamic).  A month of strict fasting from dawn until dusk in honor of the first


  • HISPANIC HERITAGE MONTHIn 1968, Congress first designated the week including September 15 and 16 as National Hispanic Heritage Week. This week was chosen because of two historical events: Independence Day (September 15), which celebrates the formal signing of the Act of Independence of Central America in 1821; and Mexico’s Independence Day (September 16), which commemorates the beginning of the struggle against Spanish control in 1810. In 1988, Congress expanded the week to a full 31-day period beginning September 15.
  • ROSH HASHANAH (Jewish).  Beginning of the Jewish New Year and first of the High Holy Days, which marks the beginning of a ten-day period of penitence and spiritual renewal.
  • EID AL-FI TR (Islamic).  The Feast of the Breaking of the Fast marks the end of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting from dawn until dusk.
  • AUTUMNAL EQUINOX.  The date when night and day are nearly of the same length. It marks the first day of fall.
  • YOM KIPPUR (Jewish).  The Day of Atonement marks the end of the Ten Days of Penitence that begin with Rosh HaShanah.


  • NATIONAL DISABILITY EMPLOYMENT AWARENESS.   In 1945, Congress authorized the first week of every October to be “National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week”.  The timing of this was not coincidental as WWII ended in 1945 and, by that time, more than sixteen million people had served in the US military.  Many of these veterans were fortunate enough to return home; however, many were also physically challenged.  Recently, a week in early October has been designated as Mental Illness Awareness Week.
  • SUKKOT (Jewish).  The week-long Feast of Booths commemorates the 40-year wandering of the Israelites in the desert on the way to the Promised Land.
  • SHEMI NI ATZERET (Jewish).  The Eighth (Day) of Assembly is observed on the day immediately following Sukkot.
  • NATIONAL COMING OUT DAY.  Encourages honesty and openness about being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Commemorates October 11, 1987, when 500,000 people marched on Washington, DC, for gay and lesbian equality.
  • DI WALI (Hindu).  Also called Deepavali, Festival of Lights, it celebrates the victory of good over evil, light over darkness, and knowledge over ignorance.
  • BIRTH OF THE BÁB (Bahá í).  Bahá í observance of the anniversary of the birth in 1819 of Siyyid, the Báb, the prophet -herald of the Bahá í Faith, in Shíráz, Persia.
  • ALL HALLOWS EVE (Western Christian).  The eve of All Saints Day.


  • NATIVE AMERICAN HERITAGE MONTH.  Since 1900, many have sought to recognize the great influence American Indians have had on the history, cultural development, and continuing growth of the U.S. Various dates and weeks were acknowledged until 1976, when Congress authorized a week in October as Native American Awareness Week. Finally, in 1990, the month of November was chosen because it is traditionally a time when many American Indians gather for fall harvest festivals, world-renewal ceremonies, and powwows.
  • ALL SAINTS DAY (Western Christian).  Commemorates all known and unknown Christian saints. Eastern Christianity observes it on the first Sunday after Pentecost.
  • BI RTH OF BAHÁ U LLÁH (Baháí).  Observance of the anniversary of the birth in 1817 of Baháulláh, prophet -founder of the Bahá í Faith, in Núr, Persia.
  • DAY OF THE COVENANT (Baháí).  Day of the Covenant is a festival observed to commemorate Bahau llah’s appointment of His son, Abdu l-Baha, as His successor.
  • THANKSGIVING DAY.  Following a 19t h century tradition, it commemorates the Pilgrims harvest feast in the autumn of 1621.
  • EID AL-ADHA (Islamic).  The Feast of Sacrifice concludes the Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca) , and is a three-day festival recalling Ibrahim s willingness t o sacrifice his son in obedience to God.
  • ADVENT (Christian).  Advent is a season of spiritual preparation in observance of the birth of Jesus. In Western Christianity, it starts on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. In Eastern Christianity, the season is longer and begins in the middle of November.


  • UNIVERSAL HUMAN RIGHTS MONTH.  On December 8, 1948, the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which set forth the basic civil, economic, political, and social rights that should be afforded to all people.
  • BODHI DAY (Buddhist).  Also known as Rohatsu, it observes the spiritual awakening (bodhi) of founder Siddharta Gautama, the Buddha, ca. 596 BCE. Celebrated on the eighth day either of December or the 12th month of the lunar calendar.
  • HIJRA/MUHARRAM (Islamic).  The month of Muharram marks the beginning of the Islamic liturgical year.  The first day of the month, al-Hijra, remembers the migration of Muhammad and his followers from Mecca to Medina in 622 CE. It also marks the beginning of the ten-day Shi it e Remembrance of Muharram, a period of intense grief and mourning of the martyrdom of Hussein, the son of Ali and grandson of Muhammad.
  • HANUKKAH (Jewish).  Eight-day Festival of Lights, celebrating the rededication of the Temple to the service of God in 164 BCE. Commemorates the victory of the Maccabees over the Greek King, Antiochus, who sought to suppress freedom of worship.
  • WINTER SOLSTICE.  In the northern hemisphere, the shortest day of the year. It marks the first day of the season of winter.
  • CHRISTMAS (Christian).  Commemorates the birth of Jesus.
  • KWANZAA.  Kwanzaa, celebrated Dec. 26 - Jan. 1 is an African American holiday that was developed and initiated by Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966.  Kwanzaa is a Swahili term that means "first fruits of the harvest." The focus of Kwanzaa is around the seven principles of Nguzo Saba which focuses on the social values in the African American community. The seven principles are listed below.
    Kujichagulia (self determination)
    Ujima (collective work and responsibility)
    Ujamaa (cooperative economics)
    Nia (purpose)
    Kuumba (creativity)
    Imani (faith)  


  • EPIPHANY (Christian).  Known as Theophany in Eastern Christianity, it celebrates the manifestationof Jesus as Christ. In addition, the Western Church associates Epiphany with the journey of the Magi t o the infant Jesus, and the Eastern Church with the baptism of Jesus by John.
  • MAHAYANA NEW YEAR (Buddhist).  In Mahayana countries, the New Year starts on the first full moon day in January.
  • WORLD RELIGION DAY (Bahá í).  Observance to proclaim the oneness of religion and the belief that world religion will unify the peoples of the earth.


  • BLACK HISTORY MONTH.  Prior to 1925, little information could be found in the U.S. about African American history. A widely held belief existed that African Americans had made little contribution to U.S. society. In 1926, Carter G. Woodson spearheaded the first Negro History Week to raise awareness. Fifty years later, the week was expanded to a month. February was selected because of the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, two individuals who dramatically affected the lives of African Americans.
  • MAHA SHI VARATRI (Hindu).  Also called Shiva Ratri, it is the Great Festival of Shiva
  • ASH WEDNESDAY (Christian).  The first day of Lent for Western Christian churches, a 40-day period of spiritual preparation for Easter, not counting Sundays.
  • MILAD AL-NABI (Islamic).  Celebrates the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad, founder of Islam. Shi a Muslims celebrate it five days later than Sunni Muslims.
  • PURIM (Jewish).  The Feast of Lots marks the salvation of the Jews of ancient Persia from extermination.


  • NATIONAL WOMENS HISTORY MONTH.  The evolution of a month to honor women began on March 8, 1857, when garment workers in New York City staged one of the first organized protests by working women. Women’s groups internationally have designated times to mark this day. In an effort to begin adding women’s history into educational curricula, a Women’s History Week was initiated in 1978. By 1981, the week was a national event, and in 1987, the National Women’s History Project petitioned Congress to include all of March as a celebration of women.
  • HOLI (Hindu).  Also called Holaka or Phagwa, this festival celebrates spring and commemorates various events in Hindu mythology.
  • VERNAL EQUINOX.  The date when night and day are nearly the same length. It marks the first day of the season of spring.
  • NAW-RÚZ (Baháí).  New Year s Day, astronomically fixed t o commence the year on the spring equinox.
  • RAMANAVAMI (Hindu).  Celebrates the birthday of Rama, king of ancient India, hero of the epic Ramayana, and seventh incarnation of Vishnu.
  • PALM SUNDAY (Christian).  Observed the Sunday before Easter to commemorate the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.
  • PASSOVER/PESACH (Jewish).  The eight-day Feast of Unleavened Bread celebrates Israel's deliverance from Egyptian bondage.


  • SEXUAL ASSAULT AWARENESS MONTH.  The first observance of SAAM occurred in 2001, and now, each April the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) promotes national unity and collective activism among advocacy groups on issues of sexual violence throughout the month, with focuses ranging from prevention to survivor recovery.
  • GOOD FRIDAY (Christian).  Observed the Friday before Easter, it commemorates the Crucifixion of Jesus. Known as Holy Friday in Eastern Christianity.
  • EASTER (Christian).  Celebrates the resurrection of Jesus. Known as Pascha in Eastern Christianity.
  • PASSOVER/PESACH (Jewish).  The eight-day Feast of Unleavened Bread celebrates Israel s deliverance from Egyptian bondage.
  • YOM HASHOAH (Jewish).  Holocaust Remembrance Day memorializes the heroic martyrdom of six million Jews who perished in the Nazi Holocaust.
  • FESTIVAL OF RIDVÁN (Baháí).  Annual festival commemorating the 12 days when Baháu láh, the prophet -founder of the Bahá í Faith, resided in a garden called Ridván (Paradise) and publicly proclaimed His mission as God s messenger for this age.


  • ASIAN PACIFIC AMERICAN HERITAGE MONTH.  The rich legacy of Asian Pacific Americans has strengthened the U.S. as a nation. Asian Pacific Americans, a term that encompasses many ethnic groups, worked tirelessly to build a national railroad infrastructure, paving the way for western expansion. The first Asian Pacific Heritage Week was celebrated in 1979, in response to little or no recognition of this population in the 1976 bicentennial celebrations. By 1990, the celebration was a month long and then made official in 1992.
  • OLDER AMERICAN RECOGNITION MONTH.  Recognizes and celebrates the contributions of older Americans.
  • SHAVUOT (Jewish).  The Feast of Weeks celebrates the covenant established at Sinai between God and Israel, and the revelation of the Ten Commandments.
  • PENTECOST (Christian).  Also known as Whitsunday, the seventh Sunday after Easter commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and women followers of Jesus; marks the birth of the Christian Church.
  • DECLARATION OF THE BAB (Baháí).  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.
  • BUDDHA DAY (Buddhist).  Also known as Vesak or Visakha Puja, it marks the occasion of the birth, spiritual awakening and death of the historical Buddha.
  • ASCENSI ON OF BAHÁ U LLÁH (Baháí).  Observance of the anniversary of the death in exile of Baháulláh, the prophet- founder of the Baháí Faith.


  • GAY PRIDE MONTH.  Until recently, Pride Days for individuals who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender (GLBT) were celebrated at many different times all over the U.S. The most significant date in GLBT history occurring in June was the three-day protest in 1969 at the Stonewall Inn in New York City, an event that marked the first time that the gay community joined together to fight for its rights, thereby gaining national attention. The anniversary of this event was one of the reasons June was chosen as the nationally proclaimed month to celebrate GLBT Pride.
  • JUNETEENTH.  Originally commemorating the announcement of the abolition of slavery in Texas in 1865, it is now celebrated throughout the U.S. to honor African-American freedom and achievement.
  • SUMMER SOLSTICE.  In the northern hemisphere, the longest day of the year. It marks the first day of the season of summer.


  • MARTYRDOM OF THE BÁB (Baháí).  Observance of the anniversary of the execution by a firing squadin Tabríz, Persia, of the 30-year-old Siyyid Alí-Muhammad, the Báb, the prophet herald of the Bahá í Faith.
  • ADA (AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT) DAY.  On July 26, 1990, before a gathering of national leaders and members of the disability community, President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) into law. Sixteen years later, this country has seen a positive and pronounced transformation of our public policy toward people with disabilities.

Information taken from various sources including:

For a comprehensive list of commemorative months go to:

Last Update: June 10 2011
For additional information, contact: Debbie Colucci