Happy holidays! Nope, you didn’t read that wrong. Here in the United States, we’ve become accustomed to thinking of “the holidays” as the months of November and December. Around the world, there are many, many holidays in the month of March. As winter ends and spring begins to blossom, people all over the world and here in Orange County mark this month with celebrations and observances of all sorts.
1. Purim - Monday March 6-Tuesday March 7
Purim is a traditional Jewish holiday celebrating the Persian Jews’ triumph over the minister Haman dating back to the fifth century BCE. Often described as the merriest of all Jewish holidays, this joyful festival represents Jewish perseverance and escape from extermination. Purim is typically celebrated on the 14th of the month of Adar on the Hebrew calendar. People of the Jewish faith celebrate by wearing zany masks and costumes, organizing pageants and parades, feasting, drinking, and giving to the poor. Purim is celebrated in all corners of the globe where Judaism is practiced. The largest festivals take place in Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv, Israel.
How can you acknowledge Purim? Make your own Hamantaschen, pastries that represent the evil Haman’s pockets (or in some cases, hat, or ears). Eating this jam-filled triangular treat represents destroying and defeating Haman’s evil.
2. Holi - Wednesday, March 8
Holi is an ancient Hindu practice and is celebrated mainly in India and Nepal, but also in other places where the Hindu faith is practiced. Even many non-religious folks have begun taking part in this lively “Festival of Colors.” The history of Holi is associated with two different stories. One story tells of the Prince Prahlad and the demon Holika, celebrating the triumph of good over evil. One common Holi practice is the burning of effigies of the demon Holika on the eve of the festivities. The second story is of the Lord Krishna and his love Radha. Krishna’s mother suggested he throw colors on Radha’s face to change the color of her skin, which began the tradition of throwing colors on Holi. Today, this vibrant holiday celebrates the coming of spring, the harvest, and fertility. On Holi, celebrants wear white, smear colorful designs on their faces and skin, and go into the streets to throw colorful powders often made of spices such as turmeric. In the evening, people will often go to temple to worship or visit their relatives and enjoy sweets.
How can you join in the festivities? Attend one of OC’s many Holi events this upcoming week. Celebrate on your own by making a color-filled water balloon and have fun throwing them with friends and family.
3. International Women’s Day – Wednesday March 8
In the early twentieth century, women began protesting for equality around the globe. In 1911, protesters in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland attended International Women’s Day rallies to fight for women’s causes such as the right to vote. In the 1970s, United Nations began marking International Women’s Day. Today, this day is observed around the world and the day is growing in recognition. The International Women’s Day organization selects a yearly theme which helps promote various women’s causes around the world. This year’s theme is #EmbraceEquity, reminding those celebrating to reflect on the difference between equality and equity. International Women’s Day is both a celebration of what women have achieved and a reminder of the progress that we still must make.
How can you acknowledge International Women’s Day? Attend a local or online event to educate yourself about women’s issues. Donate to an organization that supports women. Read a book or watch a documentary on women’s issues.
4. Pi Day – Tuesday, March 14
The first three digits of pi, or π, are 3.14, making March 14 (3/14) the perfect day for celebrating this numerical constant. Larry Shaw, a physicist at the San Francisco Exploratorium, organized the first official Pi Day back in 1988. Mathematicians celebrate Pi day by memorizing and reciting the digits of pi, and, of course, eating delicious pies. Pi day is a fun-filled day for mathematicians, students, and pie-lovers alike.
How can you join in the fun? Bake a pi-shaped pie. Memorize as many digits of pi as you can.
5. St. Patrick’s Day – Friday March 17
Today, St. Patrick’s Day is most closely associated with leprechauns, shamrocks, and anything green. Back in the fifth century CE, Christian missionary St. Patrick helped to spread his religion throughout Ireland. Many legends surround the patron saint of Ireland, including that he used the shamrock to explain the concept of the Holy Trinity. St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated with great fanfare in Ireland, but also in the United States. The first St. Patrick’s Day parade actually took place on a Spanish colony in modern-day Florida. Irish Americans have historically celebrated St. Patrick’s Day to display their Irish pride and acknowledge their heritage.
How can you join in the festivities?
Don’t forget to wear green or you might get pinched! Cook corned beef and cabbage. (Fun Fact: Corned Beef and Cabbage is actually an American dish. As recent immigrants in the 19th century, Irish Americans developed a close-knit bond with the Jewish community. On festive days, Irish Americans would purchase brisket from Jewish delis and serve it with the cheapest vegetables they could buy, which was often cabbage.)
6. Spring Equinox – Monday, March 20
The Spring Equinox marks the end of winter and the onset of spring for the northern hemisphere. The word “equinox” indicates that on this day, the sun is nearest to the equator, giving equal lengths of day and night. The Spring Equinox is significant to many cultures, but is of particular importance to North American indigenous communities. Ancient Mayans marked this day with the beginning of the planting season. Today, you can visit the ancient ruins of the Mayan civilization in Chichen Itza, Mexico and see the Temple of Kukulcán. On both the Spring and Fall equinox, the shadow of the temple’s staircase creates the illusion of a serpent slithering down the pyramid. Many people also gather for the Spring Equinox in another archaeological site in Mexico, wearing white and hiking up the Teotihuacan pyramid to witness the sun and pray.
How can you mark the Spring Equinox? Besides visiting Mexico to witness these ancient wonders, you can get out and experience the natural beauty of your own hometown. Take a stroll, go for a hike, or watch the sunset near the ocean.
7. Nowruz – Tuesday, March 21
Nowruz marks the New Year on the Persian Solar Hijri calendar. Originating over three thousand years ago with the Zoroastrian religion, this holiday symbolizes the triumph over the dark winter. In Iran, people begin preparing for Nowruz by cleaning their homes and creating an arrangement of haft-sin, or items that will bring them good fortune in the new year. On the day of Nowruz, families spend time with one another, and older family members give gifts or money to the children of the family. The conclusive tradition of Nowruz happens on the thirteenth day of the New Year when people gather for outdoor picnics and throw bundles of wheatgrass into running water to invite good fortune.
How can you join in the festivities?
Even if you don’t celebrate Nowruz, it’s never a bad time to do a little housecleaning. Prepare for the spring by cleaning your home. Reward yourself for your hard work with a delicious Iranian dish, such as Kuku Sabzi, a flavorful, herb-filled frittata.
8. Ramadan – Wednesday March 22-Friday April 21
Ramadan is the ninth month on the Islamic calendar. For Muslims all over the world, Ramadan is a time of prayer, devotion, and reflection. Many Muslims observe a fast during the days of Ramadan, which they break once the sun sets by eating three dates and enjoying a large meal with family. In Islam, the observance of Ramadan completes one of the Five Pillars known as sawm or fasting as dictated by scripture in the Qur’an. The observance of Ramadan dates back to the religion’s founding in the sixth century CE when the prophet Muhammad went into a secluded cave to reflect and pray.
Do you want to learn more about Ramadan? To learn more about the significance of Ramadan for Muslims all over the world, visit https://ing.org/resources/for-all-groups/calendar-of-important-islamic-dates/ramadan-information-sheet/.
9. Nyepi – Wednesday March 22- Thursday March 23
Nyepi is the Balinese New Year. Commonly known as a “Day of Silence,” Indonesians observe Nyepi by maintaining silence, disconnecting from technology, fasting, and meditating. While Nyepi is traditionally a Hindu holiday dedicated to deepening spiritual devotion, many non-Hindu Balinese folks join in the practice. Rituals such as the melasti ceremony (a journey to the coast) begin in the days leading up to Nyepi, and festivities continue for the two days after. The eve of Nyepi is typically loud and lively as celebrants symbolically rid the new year of evil.
Do you want to celebrate Nyepi at home? Join in the peace that Nyepi brings by taking time out of your day to meditate in silence or disconnect from technology.
10. César Chávez Day – Friday March 31
In honor of the preeminent civil rights and labor movement leader, César Chávez birthday was declared a federal commemorative holiday by President Barack Obama in 2014. Many recognize César Chávez Day as a “Day of Service” and choose to spend this day giving back to their communities. Alongside Dolores Huerta, César Chávez devoted his life’s work to securing justice for farmworkers and other laborers. Chávez led strikes, boycotts, and protests with other members of the United Farmworkers of America, always using non-violent means to secure labor victories. He received a Medal of Freedom posthumously in 1994 to honor his dedication to the labor cause.
How should you observe César Chávez day? Learn more about our nation’s fight for fair and equal labor rights. Read Trampling Out the Vintage: Cesar Chavez and the Two Souls of the United Farm Workers by Fred Bardacke or watch The Fight in the Fields: César Chávez and the Farmworkers’ Struggle (1997).
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