"01 May"It’s come around quickly, but it’s time to think about May, and some of the cultural, religious and national celebrations that will add layers of complexity to the diaries and planning of anyone working in an international/global context.

Around the World, many will be celebrating May 1 as International Workers Day. It’s a national holiday for many (well over 80 countries) and is celebrated informally by others across North America, Europe and Australia. The date also marks the coming of Summer festivals for many, including Walpurgis Night (Walpurgisnacht) celebrated in some Eastern European and Nordic countries, and festivals with their roots in the Gaelic/Pagan festival of Beltane, with fires and fertility related rites marking the celebrations. Many will be familiar with ‘maypoles’ – these have their roots in the festival of Beltane.

May 1 is,however, one of those festivals/holidays where you can take nothing for granted – even the date. If you work internationally, it’s worth asking colleagues what they’ll be doing, if anything. For example, although many will celebrate only on May 1, in China it’s a three day public holiday. Others will party the night before/for several nights, and others, like the UK (where I’m from), mostly ignore it except in passing until we have a ‘Bank Holiday’ on the following Monday, May 5.

(We also have a late May bank holiday, May 26 this year, coinciding with Memorial Day, a federal holiday in the US.)

Translated into Spanish, May 5 is, of course, the ‘Cinco de Mayo’ – the date which marks the Battle of Puebla, celebrated in Mexico and parts of the USA. Note though that although the Cinco de Mayo is a popular festival, it’s not an ‘obligatory’ holiday.

Israel’s Independence Day Yom Ha’atzmaut also starts at dusk that day, to be fully celebrated on May 6.

For those of Bahai faith, May is important, with the Ridván Festival already being celebrated, and at least two other landmark holy days across the month.

For Sikhs, the celebration in May of the birth date of Guru Arjan Dev is important, given additional significance for many as The Guru laid the foundation of the Golden Temple in Amritsar.

Important to note is Lailat al Miraj for the Muslim faith, which I believe falls on May 27 this year. The hugely significant holiday marks the Prophet Muhammad’s journey from Mecca to Jerusalem, where he ascended to heaven, and was given instructions that Muslims should pray five times daily. It’s a holiday all across the UAE amongst others.

(This also falls on US Memorial Day, being the last Monday in May.)

In Kerala, Southern India, there are numerous elephant festivals in May, and many other places Worldwide have regional festivals – like a Romeria’s in Southern Spain and a snake festival in Italy.

Why not….?

  • If you work in an International context, there really is only one thing to do to cope with May: ask. Or, of course, tell:  if you have a major holiday or celebration, or even just a day off looming, why let the first your colleagues hear about it be an email response message saying you’re not there?
  • Take a look at our training for global working


About the author:

Claire Thompson Claire has a background in PR and communications, and has worked in the UK and abroad for many years. Within Global Integration, she's the frontline for co-ordinating the blogging, social media, posting and general digital magic that team members ask for support with. It keeps her busy - she loves it! Google+ Profile: .

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