DEI Committee Update 11-3-22

DEI Committee Update 11-3-22

When it comes to the holiday season, there are many similar traditions around the world. Not all traditions are the same, though. Not all countries observe the same holidays or even observe the same holidays in the same way.


Thanksgiving, a federal holiday in the United States, has been celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November since 1942. It originated as a day of thanksgiving and a harvest festival, with the theme of the holiday revolving around giving thanks and the centerpiece of Thanksgiving celebrations remaining a Thanksgiving dinner. The dinner traditionally consists of foods and dishes indigenous to the Americas, namely turkey, potatoes (usually mashed or sweet), stuffing, squash, corn (maize), green beans, cranberries, and pumpkin pie. Other Thanksgiving customs include charitable organizations offering Thanksgiving dinner for the poor, attending religious services, watching parades, and viewing football games. In American culture Thanksgiving is regarded as the beginning of the fall–winter holiday season, which includes Christmas and the New Year.


Much like Columbus Day, Thanksgiving is observed by some as a “National Day of Mourning”, in acknowledgment of the genocide and conquest of Native Americans by colonists. Thanksgiving has long carried a distinct resonance for Native Americans, who see the holiday as an embellished story of “Pilgrims and Natives looking past their differences” to break bread.


Thanksgiving in Canada: Celebrated on the 2nd Monday in October as a national holiday and a harvest festival. Since 1971, when the American Uniform Monday Holiday Act took effect, the American observance of Columbus Day, also known as indigenous people’s day, has coincided with the Canadian observance of Thanksgiving.


Thanksgiving in Liberia: Thanksgiving is celebrated in the West African nation of Liberia on the first Thursday in November because Americans helped to colonize the country in the 19th Century. Instead of turkey and mashed potatoes, Liberians prefer jollof rice, chicken, green bean casserole, puddings, and other typical food from West Africa.


Labor Thanksgiving in Japan: Celebrated every year on the November 23, Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday in Japan. Unlike America, Thanksgiving is celebrated as a national public holiday to honor the hard work of laborers. Among the Japanese, Thanksgiving is all about appreciating workers who labor daily to make the nation better and more productive. The day is usually celebrated with the family by planning a trip to an amusement park or green space, followed by a modest dinner.


Christmas: Christmas is an annual festival commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, observed on December 25 as a religious and cultural celebration among billions of people around the world. Christmas Day is a public holiday in 200 countries, is celebrated religiously by a majority of Christians, as well as culturally by many non-Christians, and forms an integral part of the holiday season organized around it.


Diwali in India: Also called the Festival of Lights, Diwali is India’s most important holiday of the year. This Hindu festival is famous for celebrating the victory of good over evil, light over darkness, and knowledge over ignorance. Diwali is usually celebrated for five days, mainly among Indians, and involves shopping, home decoration, worship ceremonies, gift-giving, fireworks, and feasts. This year it was celebrated during the week of October 24.


Halloween Around the World: Halloween is another well-known holiday that is celebrated on October 31 each year. The belief is that the spirits from the other world visit the earth every year on this day. Therefore, people dress in scary costumes and light bonfires to keep ghosts away. Though Halloween is gaining popularity worldwide, some countries still do not celebrate this holiday. Though different countries have different means for the day, the traditions of the United States, The UK and Ireland, and Canada are pretty much the same. These traditions involve carving pumpkins, costume parties, games, pranks, trick-or-treating, telling haunted stories, and watching horror movies.


All Saints’ Day in France: All Saints’ Day is one of the biggest holidays in France, celebrated on November 1 every year. Also known as La Toussaint in France, the day is about families gathering to honor their dearly departed by placing flowers on their graves, followed by a massive lunch at home. As the All Saints’ Day holiday falls during school holidays, it gives an excellent chance for extended families to reunite as a part of a short vacation. French people usually eat lamb for lunch on this day. However, at midnight, they often prefer having a supper consisting of pancakes, black grain, bacon, and cider to honor the dead.


Celebration of Bodhi Day Among Buddhists: Bodhi Day is the day to celebrate the enlightenment of Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama. Though the day is celebrated on different dates in different countries, most Buddhists celebrate it on December 8. People cherish this enlightening day in several ways. Many Buddhists celebrate it in a quiet, calm, and peaceful manner. Some Buddhist people decorate their homes with multi-colored lights, which symbolize different pathways to enlightenment.


Hanukkah: Hanukkah or festival of lights is celebrated for eight days by the Jewish people worldwide. This holy week is considered the most beloved Jewish holiday. This eight-day Jewish celebration marks the recovery of Jerusalem and the re-dedication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. Per the Hebrew calendar, the celebration begins on the 25th day of Kislev, which occurs any time between late November and December; in 2022, it is December 18-26. It is marked by lighting one candle on a 9-branch menorah every day for eight nights. Traditional Hanukkah meals include savory meats, fried foods, sweet desserts, potato latkes, brisket and kugel.


Kwanzaa: Kwanzaa is an annual celebration of African-American culture from December 26 to January 1, culminating in a communal feast called Karamu, usually on the sixth day. It was created by activist Maulana Karenga, based on African harvest festival traditions from various parts of West and Southeast Africa. Kwanzaa was first celebrated in 1966.


Boxing Day across the Commonwealth: Boxing Day became an official holiday in 1871 in the United Kingdom. It is celebrated on December 26. Though the holiday has become part of many countries’ calendars (particularly Commonwealth countries like Australia, Canada, and New Zealand) it is commonly linked to the United Kingdom. Initially, the day was celebrated as a 2nd Christmas day for workers and the less fortunate. Rich households would distribute money and box up hand-me-down gifts for their servants and the needy.


Hogmanay in Edinburgh, Scotland: Hogmanay is the traditional name for New Year’s Eve in Scotland. NYE is one of the most popular holidays in Edinburgh. Scotland’s capital is a top spot for celebrating the end of December and the beginning of January. The way westerners celebrate New Year’s Eve is thanks largely to the Scots way of celebrating the occasion. Scottish New Year’s night traditions are staying up and witnessing fireworks until the clock strikes midnight to the new year, dancing the night away, first footing, and singing Robert Burns’ Auld Lang Syne. It is also celebrated by gift-giving and trying out a wide variety of food and copious amounts of alcohol!


January Christmas in Russia: Celebrated on January 7, Christmas has become a national holiday in Russia since 1992. The date is different from the US and Canada as the Russian Orthodox Church follows the ancient ‘Julian’ calendar for religious celebration days. Russians usually celebrate Christmas with their families and friends by decorating Christmas trees, preparing feasts, and exchanging gifts.


The Muslim Celebration of Ramadan: Ramadan is an Islamic festival celebrated by Muslims across the globe. Also known as The Holy Month of Fasting, Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, which tends to come in the spring. The festival is much more than fasting; it is about history, culture, faith, prayers, and charity. The tradition of Ramadan is that after the sunset prayers, Muslim people gather in mosques or their homes to end their fast with a delicious meal. This meal is often shared with extended families and friends. It usually begins with dates and is followed by grains, nuts, meat, fruits, and vegetables.


Given that many of the holidays are religiously based, the following shows religious affiliations worldwide and in the USA.

Worldwide religious affiliation

Religion Adherents Percentage  USA %
Christianity 2.4 billion



Islam 1.9 billion



Secular/Nonreligious/Agnostic/Atheist 1.2 billion



Hinduism 1.1 billion



Buddhism 506 million



Judaism 15 million