May 2023 National Holidays

One of the cultural challenges of employing workers all over the world is the recognition of national holidays and days of remembrance that are an important part of their local reality. Making mention of these days and sending well wishes as they happen can go a long way toward building bridges and affinities with your global teams, though they may be oceans away. 

Here are some prominent holidays coming up in March, along with a brief description. We hope it helps you connect with and honor your employees across the world.    

May Day (1 May) – May Day has its roots in pagan celebrations of the arrival of summer, but in recent times, it has also become associated with left-wing politics and labor activism. The day’s emphasis on celebration varies considerably from country to country, but nearly all European nations celebrate some version of it on or around the first of May.

In countries where May Day is associated with labor activism, left-wing parties may organize public events, marches, and speeches designed to celebrate workers and highlight contemporary challenges they face. In places where a connection to nature and the new season holds more sway, revelers often set up a traditional Maypole around which they dance, welcoming the warm summer weather.

Fiesta de las Cruces (3 May) – Commemorates the search for Jesus’ cross by Saint Helena, a Byzantine empress. In the Americas, it dates back to colonial times when Catholic missionaries, who often struggled to communicate with indigenous populations, took to dressing up the Christian cross with local symbols, fruits, and cloths.

Celebrations vary from country to country, but in some areas, the holiday doubles as the unofficial beginning of the rainy season. Families erect a cross outside of their homes, dress it in local flowers and tissue paper, and place fruits and vegetables at the foot of the cross. Visitors are invited to say a short prayer and take a tasty offering to go.

Buddha Jayanti (5 May) – Celebrates the birth of Prince Siddhartha Gautama, who later became known as Gautama Buddha – the founder of Buddhism. Buddhists around the world celebrate Buddha Jayanti, but it is especially important in Nepal, where the Buddha is said to have been born around 500 BCE.

Celebrations of Buddha Jayanti vary considerably across lands where Buddhists make up much of the population. In Nepal, the holiday is decidedly spiritual in nature; many head to Buddhist temples for an extended service, most often wearing all white. In Malaysia, by contrast, it is traditional to release caged animals on this day.

Victory in Europe Day (8 May) – Marks the defeat of Nazi Germany and the Axis Powers by the Allied Powers of Europe. On that day in 1945, German forces unconditionally surrendered, bringing World War II to an end. In modern Germany, the day also marks the sacrifices made by members of the German Resistance during the war.

European citizens often visit military cemeteries or memorials dedicated to those lost in World War II. Meanwhile, politicians and public figures give speeches about the sacrifices made by their armed forces and civilian populations alike. The holiday is more commonly celebrated in Europe than in the United States, given the outsized impact of the war on the European continent.

Europe Day (9 May) – Commemorates the 1950 Schuman Declaration, which united the French and German coal industries and is widely seen as the precursor to today’s European Union. As the EU’s establishment drew closer, the European Committee (another predecessor organization) declared the need for a holiday that would highlight the pan-European identity the new Union represented. Though the International Union of American Republics spans many countries, only Honduras observes its founding as a public holiday. It is celebrated with parades, flag-waving, and a spirit of international cooperation. The day is intended as a reminder of the shared histories, good and bad, of all the republics in the Americas.

In what is known as “Open Doors Day,” many governmental offices open their doors to the public, allowing ordinary citizens to “see” (if only symbolically) the inner workings of the European Union. Throughout the Union, public institutions host events intended to remind citizens of the challenges (and opportunities) posed by supranational governance.

Karnataka Election Day (10 May) – The day of polling in the southwest Indian state of Karnataka.

Norwegian Constitution Day (17 May) – Norwegian Constitution Day, also known as “17th of May,” celebrates the signing of Norway’s constitution, which allowed the country to avoid being absorbed into Sweden after the Napoleonic Wars. The day also holds significance in commemorating the victory over Nazism in Europe, as it is near to World War II’s “V Day.” The highlight of the celebration is the children’s parades that take place in city centers across Norway. These parades start and end with speeches by community leaders about current events in the country.

Battle of Las Piedras (18 May) – The Battle of Las Piedras was a critical turning point in Uruguay’s war of independence against Spanish imperial forces. The victory is commemorated to remind Uruguayans of the peace that followed. Celebrations include military and civil parades across the country, highlighting Uruguay’s history and culture. Cultural events, such as musical performances, dances, and art fairs, showcase the country’s rich heritage.

Whit Sunday (28 May) – Whit Sunday, also known as Whitsun or Pentecost, is a Christian holiday that commemorates the visitation of the Holy Spirit to the apostles seven weeks after Jesus’ resurrection. The holiday has varying levels of observance across regions and traditions, but it is particularly prominent in Europe. The name “Whitsun” comes from England, where the words for “white” and “understanding” merged. Along with religious services, communities often host public events such as concerts by brass bands and choirs, who perform traditional Christian music. It is customary for young women to wear white to such events.