MOSAIC’S February Culture Corner

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February: Black History Month

Black History Month is an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans and a time for recognizing the central role of blacks in U.S. history. Also known as African American History Month, the event grew out of “Negro History Week,” the brainchild of noted historian Carter G. Woodson and other prominent African Americans.

Since 1976, every U.S. president has officially designated the month of February as Black History Month. Other countries around the world, including Canada and the United Kingdom, also devote a month to celebrating black history.

From field trips to celebrating through song, these are 5 ways you can celebrate black history month virtually.

February 1: National Freedom Day

Created in 1942 by a Philadelphian born in slavery, the annual National Freedom Day commemoration each February 1 calls attention to the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which ended slavery, and the continuing struggle for African American justice and equality. Each year, National Freedom Day is celebrated at the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia.

Read more about the this day became a U.S. national holiday.

February 12: Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year, also known as Lunar New Year, is the festival that celebrates the beginning of a new year on the traditional Chinese calendar. In Chinese culture and East Asian countries, the festival is commonly referred to as the Spring Festival.

Marking the end of winter and the beginning of the spring season, observances traditionally take place from New Year’s Eve, the evening preceding the first day of the year to the Lantern Festival held on the 15th day of the year. The first day of Chinese New Year begins on the new moon that appears between 21 January and 20 February. In 2021, the first day of the Chinese New Year will be on Friday, 12 February, which is the Year of the Ox.

Is this your year? Learn more about the Year of the Ox and Chinese New Year traditions.

February 15: Parinirvana/Nirvana Day

Nirvana Day is an annual Buddhist festival that is celebrated in commemoration of the death of Buddha at the age of 80 years when he reached Nirvana. The day is also known as Parinirvana Day. According to the Buddhist faith, Nirvana is believed to be the festival that marks the end of the cycle of death and rebirth.

Buddhists use Nirvana Day as an occasion for reflecting on one’s future death and their relations to friends and those who have of passed away recently. Buddhist teachings remind them that everything is temporary, and nothing remains the same. They are encouraged that matters of death should be accepted as something normal, and it should not cause grief.

Learn more about this Buddhist observance.

February 15: Family Day

Family Day occurs on the third Monday in February in most Canadian provinces, and celebrates the importance of family and family life to people and their communities.

February 16: Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, refers to events of the Carnival celebration, beginning on or after the Christian feasts of the Epiphany (Three Kings Day) and culminating on the day before Ash Wednesday, which is known as Shrove Tuesday. Mardi Gras is French for “Fat Tuesday”, reflecting the practice of the last night of eating rich, fatty foods before Lent.

Although the parades are canceled this year, bring the Mardi Gras celebration to your home with this King Cake recipe.

February 17: Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday is a Christian holy day of prayer and fasting. It is preceded by Shrove Tuesday and falls on the first day of Lent, the six weeks of penitence before Easter. During religious services, it is customary for priests or ministers to trace a sign of the cross on parishioners’ foreheads with ashes.

Learn more about Ash Wednesday

February 25: Purim

Purim is a Jewish holiday which commemorates the saving of the Jewish people from Haman, a Persian Empire official, as recounted in the Book of Esther.

Learn more about the history of Purim and how it is celebrated.

February 27: Dominican Independence Day

Dominican Independence Day commemorates the Dominican Republic’s independence from Haiti in 1844. In celebration, the country’s Carnival is held every year during the entire month of February, culminating with the largest celebration on Independence Day.

The Dominican’s cultural identity and creativity are on display throughout this vibrant month. The festivities in the Dominican Republic can be traced back to the 1500s, in the ruins of a town called La Vega, even before it was celebrated in the capital city of Santo Domingo.

Learn more about the Dominican Republic’s road to freedom.