Diversity Holidays and Celebrations In May (Week 4)

May 27, 2021

This month this column is promoting diversity and holidays. We began this month bringing awareness to the Catholic Feast of Saints Philip and James and in Weeks 2 and 3 we honored Cinco de Mayo, which celebrates Mexican culture and heritage. This final week of this series, we will look at the U.S. federal holiday, Memorial Day as well as the Jewish holiday, Shavuot.

Memorial Day
Monday, May 31, 2021

Memorial Day is celebrated in the United States and is observed the last Monday in May. Memorial Day honors the men and women who died while serving in the United States military. This year Memorial Day will occur on May 31, 2021.

According to www.History.com, originally Memorial Day was known as Decoration Day which originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official holiday in 1971.

Memorial Day is celebrated by Americans by visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings and participating in parades. Unofficially, Memorial Day marks the beginning of summer. 1 On May 31, 2021, pause on this federal holiday to honor the military men and women who died in wars fought by American forces.

Shavuot Commemorated
May 16-18
(Sundown to Sundown)

Shavuot is a Jewish holiday that marks the important wheat harvest in Israel and also commemorates the anniversary of the day when God gave the Torah to the nation of Israel assembled at Mount Sinai, seven weeks after the exodus from Egypt.

My Jewish Learning notes that the wheat harvest determines the ritual for the holiday, which was one of the three pilgrimage festivals of ancient Israel, when Israelite males were commanded to appear before God in Jerusalem, bringing offerings of the first fruits of their harvest. The second determines the significance of the holiday for Judaism tying it in with the seminal event of Jewish religious memory, namely the entering into a covenant between God and Israel, exemplified by Israel’s assumption of Divine Law.

During Shavuot in the synagogue a special reading of the Book of Ruth is done. The reason for this is that the Book of Ruth takes place at the time of the barley harvest, that Ruth’s assumption of Naomi’s religion reflects the Israelites’ acceptance of the Torah at Sinai. Shavuot is also one of the holidays which both the Hallel, the Psalms of Praise is recited and Yizkor, the memorial service is observed. This is a joyous time since it is the moment at which God and Israel entered into a covenant with each other, the hopeful springtime of their relationship.2

1 Memorial Day, www.History.com

2 My Jewish Learning at: www.myjewishlearning.com/article/shavuot-101/

Beloved, the United States is rich with various cultures and blessed to be able to observe the diversity of holidays and celebrations. May we all be inspired to learn about diversity holidays and celebrations and how they can enrich our knowledge and encourage inclusion and sensitivity.

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