Heritage Months, Religious Holidays, and Identity Recognition Days


Throughout the academic year and during the summer, Whittier College observes a wide spectrum of heritage and identity events in recognition of the profound contributions of historically marginalized communities.

This calendar of acknowledgments, which may be updated, provides a framework for all Poets to engage with the history, traditions, and experiences of groups that have overcome barriers in the U.S. It also offers an opportunity for reflection and serves as a helpful tool to promote inclusivity and raise awareness around cultural diversity.

Please consider these dates when choosing times for meetings and events, and avoid scheduling important campus gatherings during religious holidays and heritage celebrations. 


September | Latinx Heritage Month 

Latinx Heritage Month originated more than 50 years ago when President Lyndon Johnson proclaimed a week-long celebration of the histories, cultures, and contributions of Americans of Hispanic descent to U.S. national heritage. This event has now grown into a month-long commemoration deeply rooted in rich traditions and focused on rejecting ignorance and racism through education. 

September 15- 17 | Rosh Hashanah

The Jewish New Year is a two-day observance and celebration that includes customs like sounding the shofar horn and eating apples dipped in honey. It is the first of the Jewish High Holy Days in the fall.

September 24– 25 | Yom Kippur

Coming 10 days after Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement and is devoted to fasting and prayer intended to inspire forgiveness for the past year’s mistakes. It is considered the holiest day of the Jewish sacred calendar.


October | LGBTQ+ History Month

LGBTQ+ History Month honors members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer communities on Whittier Campus and beyond. October was chosen to commemorate LGBTQ+ history and political activism such as the first and second LGBT marches on Washington in 1979 and 1987, and because several important dates fall within the month.

October 9 | Indigenous Peoples’ Day

In 2021, President Joe Biden became the first president to formally recognize the holiday that celebrates and honors the histories and cultures of Indigenous people. It is held on the second Monday in October. Columbus Day remains a federal holiday celebrating Italian American heritage, but critics say that Columbus Day glorifies the genocide of native peoples and the slave trade that followed.

October 11 | National Coming Out Day

First celebrated in 1988, the day supports anyone “coming out of the closet,” or people disclosing their sexual orientation or gender identity. The initial idea was grounded in the feminist and gay liberation spirit of the personal being political, and the emphasis on the most basic form of activism being coming out to family, friends, and colleagues, and living life as an openly lesbian or gay person.

October 23- 27 | Cultural Appropriation & Halloween

While Halloween can be a fun time to dress in silly costumes or outfits referencing popular media, it is important to remember that what you wear should not belittle others or appropriate their cultures. A Native American headdress, for example, is used for ceremonial occasions and not Halloween parties.


November | Native American History Month

Established in 1990 by President George H. W. Bush, this month commemorates the cultures and traditions of Native Americans. Americans gain knowledge of the unique challenges faced by American Indian and Alaska Natives, including the impacts of historical trauma such as colonization and genocide.

November 12 | Diwali

This five-day Hindu festival of lights gets its name from the row of clay lamps that Indians light outside their homes to symbolize the inner light that protects them from spiritual darkness. Over the centuries, Diwali has become a national festival that is also enjoyed by non-Hindu communities.

November 20 | Transgender Day of Remembrance

This day honors the memory of the transgender people whose lives were lost in acts of anti-transgender violence. It was founded in 1999 to memorialize the murder of Black transgender women Rita Hester and Chanelle Pickett.

November 24 | Native American Heritage Day

Observed on the day after Thanksgiving, this day pays tribute to Native Americans for their many contributions to the United States. The holiday was signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2008.         


December 3 | International Day of Persons with Disabilities

The annual observance of the day was proclaimed in 1992 by the United Nations. It aims to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilize support for the dignity, rights, and well-being of persons with disabilities.

December 8– 15 | Hanukkah

Observed for eight days and nights with the traditional lighting of the menorah, Hanukkah celebrates when the Maccabees rebelled against King Antiochus and rededicated the Temple in Jerusalem. Festivities include singing Hanukkah songs, playing the game of dreidel, and eating latkes.

December 25 | Christmas

This Christian festival celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ and has grown to be celebrated religiously and secularly by people around the world. Customs include exchanging gifts and receiving presents from Santa Claus or Saint Nicholas, singing carols, decorating a Christmas tree, viewing a Nativity play, and more.           


January 15 | Martin Luther King Holiday

 This holiday promotes the life and achievements of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The federal holiday is held on the third Monday of January. President Ronald Reagan signed the holiday into law in 1983 and it was first observed in 1986.


February | Black History Month

This month promotes the contributions of Black people to the United States, from slavery to today. The first celebration of Black History Month took place at Kent State University in 1970.

February 10 | Chinese New Year

One of the many lunar new years celebrated in Asian countries, the Chinese New Year marks the end of winter and the beginning of spring. Popular customs include gifting money in red envelopes, lighting lanterns and fireworks, dragon and lion dances, and more.


March | Women’s History Month

March became Women's History Month in 1987, stemming from its predecessor Women’s History Week. The time is used to acknowledge the historical contributions of women in the United States. 

March 11 | Start of Ramadan

Ramadan is a month of fasting, prayer, and reflection observed by Muslims worldwide. It commemorates when the prophet Muhammad was visited by the angel Gabriel and is regarded as one of the Five Pillars of Islam.

March 25 | Holi

The Hindu festival of colors, love, and spring celebrates the eternal and divine love of the gods Radha and Krishna. Common practices include singing, dancing, and throwing colored water.

March 31 | International Day of Transgender Visibility 

This day is dedicated to celebrating transgender people and their contributions as well as raising awareness of the discrimination they faced. Transgender activist Rachel Crandall-Crocker created the event in 2009.

March 31 | Cesar Chavez Day

Held annually on Cesar Chavez’s birthday, the holiday commemorates the legacy of the civil rights and labor movement activists who co-founded the National Farm Workers Association. It was proclaimed a commemorative holiday by President Barack Obama in 2014.

March 31 | Easter

This Christian holiday celebrates the resurrection of Jesus three days after he was crucified. It is preceded by a 40-day period of fasting known as Lent, as well as Holy Week. Traditions include decorating eggs and eating symbolic foods such as lamb and bread. 


April | Arab American History Month

The month was recognized by President Joe Biden in April 2021. It recognizes the contributions of Arab Americans as well as highlights their culture and heritage. It also serves as a time to challenge stereotypes and prejudices.

April 10– 12 | Eid al-Fitr

Marking the end of Ramadan, the celebration lasts multiple days. Practices include prayer, donating money to the poor, and consuming sweet foods.

April 17 | Holocaust Remembrance Day

Designated by the United Nations, the day remembers the killing of six million Jews during the Holocaust in Europe, and millions of other victims of Nazism.

April 23– 30 | Passover

This multi-day holiday focuses on the Israelites’ exodus from ancient Egypt, led by the prophet Moses. Important rituals include a traditional seder meal, which features a variety of symbolic dishes such as the unleavened bread matzo.


May | Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

The month recognizes the legacy and traditions of Asians, Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders across the United States. It began as a 10-day celebration in 1977, growing into a monthlong observance in 1990.             

May | Cultural Graduations

Whittier’s Office of Equity and Inclusion hosts cultural graduate celebrations in an intimate setting to celebrate and be inspired by the achievements, perseverance, and success of the underrepresented student groups on campus such as the APIDA, Black, Latinx, and LGBTQ+ communities.

The celebrations are for the entire family and honor graduates and those who helped them reach the completion of their degrees. They are organized, planned, and coordinated by students.


June | Pride Month 

In honor of 1969’s Stonewall Rebellion — which many consider the start of the modern LGBTQ+ movement — the month pays tribute to the progress of LGBTQ+ history and civil rights.

June 19 | Juneteenth 

Juneteenth marks the day when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865, to take control of the state and ensure that all enslaved people were freed. The troops’ arrival came a full two and a half years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. 

While Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States, it only became a federal holiday in 2021. It is also the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was adopted in 1983.