Calendar of Holidays & Observances

DEI Event Calendar: May

“April showers bring May flowers.”  That’s especially true when it comes to the bounty of May’s holidays, observances and commemorations that celebrate equity, varying diversity dimensions, and inclusion. Share your celebration with us on social media: #IamDEI.  We’ve listed a few below, and we welcome additions to this list – please email us at

May 1-31 Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month
Throughout May, we pay tribute to the generations of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who have enriched America’s history and ensured its future success.  Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders have a rich heritage thousands of years old and have both shaped the history of the United States and had their lives dramatically influenced by moments in its history.  The month of May was chosen to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese to the United States on May 7, 1843, and to mark the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869. The majority of the workers who laid the tracks were Chinese immigrants.

May 1-31 Jewish American Heritage Month
During the month of May, we recognize and celebrate the more than 350-year history of Jewish contributions to American culture.  Jewish American Heritage Month enables the exploration of the meaning of religious pluralism, cultural diversity, and participation in American civic culture.  It empower communities across the country to celebrate the inspiring history of Jewish people in America; educate diverse public audiences about Jewish culture; and spark crucial conversations about the American Jewish present and future.

May 1-31 Mental Health Awareness Month
Millions of Americans face the reality of living with a mental illness. Each May, several organizations join the national movement to raise awareness about mental health, working to fight stigma, provide support, educate the public and advocate for policies that support people with mental illness and their families. The theme for Mental Health Awareness Month 2022 is “Back to Basics,” with the goal of providing foundational knowledge about mental health and mental health conditions, and information about what people can do if their mental health is a cause for concern.  

May 1  Beltane (Celtic/Pagan/Wiccan)
An ancient Celtic festival celebrated on May Day, halfway between the spring equinox and the summer solstice, Beltane is mentioned in some of the earliest Irish literature and is associated with important events in Irish mythology. It marked the beginning of summer when cattle were driven out to the summer pastures.  Special bonfires, whose flames, smoke and ashes were deemed to have protective powers, were kindled. The people and their cattle would walk around or between bonfires, and sometimes leap over the flames or embers.   Beltane celebrations had largely died out by the mid-20th century, although some of its customs continued.  In some places, it has been revived as a cultural event.  Since the late 20th century, Celtic neopagans and Wiccans have observed Beltane or a related festival as a religious holiday.

May 2-3 Eid al-Fitr (Muslim)
The “Feast of the Breaking of the Fast” marks the end of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting from dawn until dusk.  Many Muslims attend communal prayers, listen to a khutuba (sermon), and give Zakat al-Fitr (charity in the form of food) during Eid al-Fitr.

May 5  Cinco de Mayo
Cinco de Mayo celebrates the day a poorly-equipped Mexican army decisively defeated the much larger French army at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War (1861-1867).  The victory represented a significant morale boost to the Mexican army and the Mexican people at large and helped establish a sense of national unity and patriotism.  Cinco de Mayo is primarily observed by Mexican Americans, and it may be celebrated by parades, parties, mariachi music, or traditional Mexican foods.

May 5  National Day of Prayer (Christian)
Established in 1952, this is a day of observance in the United States when people are asked to “turn to God in prayer and meditation.”  Two stated intentions of the National Day of Prayer were that it would be a day when adherents of all great religions could unite in prayer and that it may one day bring renewed respect for God to all the peoples of the world.

May 7  National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) created National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day more than a decade ago to shine a national spotlight on the importance of caring for every child’s mental health and to reinforce the message that positive mental health is essential to a child’s healthy development.  The purpose of Awareness Day is to increase public awareness about the needs of children with serious mental illness and severe emotional disturbance and their families, provide information on evidence-based practices, and encourage those who need help to seek treatment.

May 15 Vesak (Buddhist)
A Buddhist festival that marks Gautama Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and death. It falls on the day of the full moon in May.  In South and Southeast Asia, the Buddha’s birth is celebrated as part of Vesak, a festival that also celebrates the Buddha's enlightenment and death. In East Asia, the awakening and death of the Buddha are observed as separate holidays.

May 17 International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia
A global celebration of sexual-orientation and gender diversities which aims to coordinate international efforts to raise awareness of LGBTQ+ rights. The date was chosen to honor the decision to remove homosexuality from the International Classifications of Diseases of the WHO in 1990.

May 21 Armed Forces Day
On August 31, 1949, Defense Secretary Louis Johnson announced the creation of an Armed Forces Day to replace separate Army, Navy and Air Force Days. The single-day celebration stemmed from the unification of the armed forces under one agency – the Department of Defense.

May 21 World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development
The United Nations General Assembly first declared this World Day in 2002, following UNESCO’s adoption of the 2001 Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity, recognizing the need to “enhance the potential of culture as a means of achieving prosperity, sustainable development and global peaceful coexistence.”  Held every year on May 21, the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development celebrates not only the richness of the world’s cultures, but also the essential role of intercultural dialogue for achieving peace and sustainable development.

May 23 Declaration of the Bab (Baháʼí)
May 23, 1844 marked the beginnings of the Bahá’í faith in Shiraz, Persia (Iran). Sayyid `Alí Muhammad, a young merchant, proclaimed himself a new Manifestation of God. Further, he heralded another, greater messenger of God who would usher in an age of peace and justice. After his announcement, he took the title of Báb, which means “Gate” in Arabic.  

May 26 Ascension of Jesus (Western Christian)
The Christian teaching that Christ physically departed from Earth by rising into Heaven in the presence of eleven of his apostles.  The Feast of the Ascension is celebrated on the 40th day of Easter, always a Thursday; the Orthodox tradition has a different calendar up to a month later than in the Western tradition, and while the Anglican Communion continues to observe the feast, many Protestant churches have abandoned the observance.

May 29 Ascension of Bahá'u'lláh (Bahá’í)
The Ascension of Bahá'u'lláh on May 29 commemorates the anniversary of the death in exile and ascension of Bahá’u’lláh, the prophet-founder of the Bahá’í Faith.  This solemn observance also commemorates his teachings.  It is a day of rest, and is often observed by reading or chanting from the scriptures.

May 30 Memorial Day (United States)
Memorial Day, originally known as Decoration Day, is a federal holiday in the United States for mourning the U.S. military personnel who have died while serving in the United States armed forces. It is observed on the last Monday of May.  Many people visit cemeteries and memorials to honor and mourn those who died while serving in the U.S. military. Many volunteers place an American flag on graves of military personnel in national cemeteries. Memorial Day is also considered the unofficial beginning of summer in the United States.