Community & Cultural Observances
March 2023: Community Edition
Information and Resources
For each cultural observance, whether in the classroom, around the dinner table, or in other communities, we can use these questions to guide our learning: What feels familiar? What connections can I make to my own identity? What feels new? What am I inspired to learn more about?
For each cultural observance, whether in the classroom, around the dinner table, or in other communities, we can use these questions to guide our learning:
What feels familiar? What connections can I make to my own identity?
What feels new?
What am I inspired to learn more about?
Women's History Month
Month of February
Women’s History Month is a dedicated month to reflect on the often-overlooked contributions of women to United States history. From Abigail Adams to Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth to Rosa Parks, the timeline of women’s history milestones stretches back to the founding of the United States.
The actual celebration of Women’s History Month grew out of a weeklong celebration of women’s contributions to culture, history and society organized by the school district of Sonoma, California, in 1978.
A few years later, the idea caught on within communities, school districts and organizations across the country. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter issued the first presidential proclamation declaring the week of March 8 as National Women’s History Week. The U.S. Congress followed suit the next year, passing a resolution establishing a national celebration. Six years later, the National Women’s History Project successfully petitioned Congress to expand the event to the entire month of March.
International Women’s Day, a global celebration of the economic, political and social achievements of women, took place for the first time on March 8, 1911. Many countries around the world celebrate the holiday with demonstrations, educational initiatives and customs such as presenting women with gifts and flowers.
The National Women's History Alliance designates a yearly theme for Women's History Month. The 2023 theme is "Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories." This theme recognizes "women, past and present, who have been active in all forms of media and storytelling including print, radio, TV, stage, screen, blogs, podcasts, news, and social media."
Women's Stories: Ideas to Hear More about Amazing Women
Irish American Heritage Month
Irish- American Heritage Month is recognised in March every year as a way of honoring the achievements and contributions of Irish immigrants and their descendants living in the United States.
Estimates suggest that two million Irish people emigrated to the US in the decade following the Great Famine. But this was just the peak of a longer term trend. Since 1820, over six million Irish people have settled in the US. As a result, just under 10% of US residents claim Irish heritage today.
It has long been a tradition for Irish communities across the US to come together and celebrate their heritage on March 17th – the feast day of Ireland’s patron St. Patrick. The first parade took place in Boston way back in 1737 when a group of Irish people publicly celebrated the foundation of the Charitable Irish Society. But it was in New York that the modern tradition was first established in 1762 when a group of Irish soldiers paraded through the streets wearing green, singing songs and beating their military drums.
Annual celebrations became commonplace but, for a long time, only Irish Americans got involved. Today, this has completely changed. In fact, for the past 30 years, the White House has declared the whole month of March to be Irish-American Heritage Month across the US.
Local Ideas to Celebrate Irish American Heritage Month
Lent - Christianity
Lent is one of the 5 seasons of the Catholic liturgical calendar, along with Advent, Christmas, Easter, and Ordinary Time. Lent comes in preparation for Easter beginning on Ash Wednesday, 40 days (not counting Sundays) prior. The 40-day period represents Christ’s time of temptation in the wilderness, where he fasted and where Satan tempted him. Lent asks believers to set aside a time each year for similar fasting, marking an intentional season of focus on Christ’s life, ministry, sacrifice, and resurrection; it is six weeks of self-discipline. Regarded as a sober observance, it is preparation for commemorating the death and resurrection of Jesus at Easter. Lent begins with Ash Wednesday, a day of remembering our humanity, the reality of death, and the need for repentance. Churches symbolize this by putting ashes on foreheads, often in the shape of a cross.
Purim - Judaism
March 6 - 7
Purim (pronounced PUR-im) , which literally means “lots” and is sometimes known as the Feast of Lots, is the Jewish holiday in which Jews commemorate being saved from persecution in the ancient Persian Empire. According to the Book of Esther in the Torah, the Jewish people of the city of Shushan were threatened by the villain Haman, a prime minister who convinces the King Ahasuerus to kill all the Jews (because the Jewish Mordecai refused to bow down to Haman). Haman casts lots (hence the name of the holiday) to determine the date he would carry out his plan: the 13th of Adar. In the end, the Jews are saved by the heroic Queen Esther, Mordecai’s niece (and adopted daughter), who married Ahasuerus (after he banished his first, rebellious wife Vashti). When Ahasuerus discovers that his wife Esther is Jewish, he decides to reverse Haman’s decree, and instead of the Jews being killed, Haman, his sons, and other enemies are killed instead.
Holi - Hinduism
March 7 - 8
Holi is a Hindu spring festival, which originated in the subcontinent of India and is celebrated across the world. Often recognized as the “Festival of Colors,” there are several ancient legends about the origin of why Holi is celebrated. Even though some Hindu communities prefer one story over another, the messages of love, goodness, and renewal are the same.
For many Hindus, celebrating Holi is a way to honor Lord Krishna. It is common to see Lord Krishna sitting on a swing with Radha or in a cradle swing as a baby. The swings are often decorated with flowers and painted with gulal (colored powder). In this story, the festival of Holi reminds Hindus that all are equal regardless of outward appearances, and so this holiday is also referred to as the “Festival of Love.”
It is important to remember that Holi is a time for fun and celebration with friends, family, and strangers. Color paints the sky, rangolis are painted in front of houses, temples, and businesses, children receive new toys, and festive music and beats create a fun-filled noisy atmosphere. There are no formalities with Holi and with music in the air and colored powder floating all around, no one can help but smile at the sight.
Holi Traditions: Though primarily a festival of fun and celebration, there are several traditions related to Holi:
The lighting of the Holika – the night before Holi, people gather together wood to create an effigy of the demoness, Holika. Some people perform cleansing rituals, while others dance and sing around the bonfire.
Gulal – colorful powder made from natural, plant-based ingredients that is thrown on people, or mixed with water.
Sweets – many foods and sweets are eaten during Holi, especially malpuas, gujiya, and mathri. After the tossing of gulal, many people visit friends and family to exchange sweets and share meals.
Rangoli – though not a Holi-specific tradition, many people will create rangoli patterns in front of their homes to welcome the goddess Lakshmi into their homes and bless its residents with wealth and good fortune.
Greetings: To get in the spirit of the day, try the following Holi greeting: "Wishing you a very colorful and joyous Holi! On the happy occasion of Holi, may your life always be filled with the colors of joy and happiness." And don't forget to wear clothes that you don't mind bringing home a different shade than they started.
Nowruz - Persian New Year
March 21 - 22
Nowruz is celebrated by peoples of many different religions and cultures across this vast region. Some of the festival's earliest origins lie in Zoroastrianism, marking one of the holiest days in the ancient Zoroastrian calendar. The return of the spring was seen to have great spiritual significance, symbolising the triumph of good over evil and joy over sorrow.
Nowruz is also associated with a great variety of local traditions, including the legend of Jamshid, a king in Persian mythology. To this day in Iran, Nowruz celebrations are sometimes known as Nowruze Jamshidi. According to the myth, Jamshid was carried through the air in a chariot, a feat that so amazed his subjects that they established a festival on that day. Similar mythological narratives exist in Indian and Turkish traditions, while the legend of Amoo Nowrouz is popular in the countries of Central Asia.
In Iran, the centerpiece of the Nowruz celebration is the Haft sin table. The table includes at least seven (haft) items that refer to new life and renewal, each of them beginning with the letter s (pronounced seen in Persian).
sib (apples): fertility and beauty
sonbol (hyacinth): fragrance
serkeh (wine vinegar): immortality and eternity
senjed (wild olives): fertility and love
sabzeh (wheat, barley, or lentil sprouts growing in a dish): rebirth
samanu (wheat sprout pudding): sweetness
sekkeh (coins): wealth
Ramadan - Islam
March 22 - April 21
Ramadan is considered one of the holiest months of the year for Muslims. In Ramadan, Muslims commemorate the revelation of the Qur’an, and fast from food and drink during the sunlit hours as a means of drawing closer to God and cultivating self-control, gratitude, and compassion for those less fortunate. Ramadan is a month of intense spiritual rejuvenation with a heightened focus on devotion, during which Muslims spend extra time reading the Qur’an and performing special prayers. Those unable to fast, such as pregnant or nursing women, the sick, or elderly people and children, are exempt from fasting.
Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar, which is based on a 12-month lunar year of approximately 354 days. Because the lunar year is 11 days shorter than the solar year, each lunar month moves 11 days earlier each year. It takes 33 solar years for the lunar months to complete a full cycle and return to the same season. The month traditionally begins and ends based on the sighting of the new moon. Starting on March 22nd, Muslims throughout the United States and the rest of the world will begin to search the sky for the new crescent or will follow a pre-determined date based on astronomical calculation. In 2023, the month-long fast of Ramadan begins around March 23rd and ends around April 20th.
At the end of Ramadan, Muslims celebrate one of their major holidays called Eid al-Fitr or the “Festival of the Breaking of the Fast.” In 2023 the holiday will be on April 21st. Children traditionally receive new clothes, money or gifts from parents, relatives and friends. A special prayer and sermon are held the morning of Eid day, followed by a community celebration usually in a park or large hall. Food, games and presents for children are important parts of the festivities, as friends and family spend the day socializing, eating and reuniting with old acquaintances. The greeting Eid Mubarak means “blessed holiday!”
BHHS: GET Team
The BHHS G.E.T. team is not responsible for content found on any linked content.
Location: 4200 Andover Road, Bloomfield Township, MI, USA