Asian Pacific American Heritage: Holidays & Festivals

Prince Kūhiō Day

Prince Kūhiō Day

Jonah Kūhiō Kalanianaʻole

Jonah Kūhiō Kalanianaʻole (1871-1922) was a prince of the Kingdom of Hawai'i. After the kingdom's overthrow in 1893, Prince Kūhiō continued to fight for the rights of his people and eventually ran for office. He was elected to the U.S. Congress in the 1902 election and held his position in the House of Representatives from 1903-1922.

To this day, Hawaii recognizes Prince Kūhiō's birthday (March 26) as an official holiday, in which his life and legacy are celebrated.

Thingyan

Thingyan

Thingyan

The Burmese water festival, or Thingyan, takes place during the Burmese lunar new year, generally around April 13-16. It is a multi-day celebration in which water is thrown from buckets, fire hoses, water pistols, and so on with the idea that the old year--with all of its sins, impurities, and illusions--is being "washed away" to make way for the new year and give everyone a fresh start. Even tourists are fair game for being drenched!

What is Lunar New Year?

The term "Asian-American" encompasses such a wide range of cultures and countries of origin that it is difficult to choose a single holiday shared by the majority of Asian-Americans, but nearly every Asian and Asian-American culture has a celebration of the lunar new year.

Unlike the Gregorian calendar, in which New Year is always celebrated on January 1, the date of the lunar new year varies from year to year and is based on the cycles of the moon. Lunar new year generally falls between January 21 and February 20.
 

    How is it celebrated?

     Customs for celebrating the lunar
     new year vary somewhat between
     different cultures.

     Common lunar new year customs
     include:

     - Traditional cultural dress

     - Large spreads of rich food

     - Exchanging money

     - Public parades and processions

     - Rituals to drive away evil spirits

Republic Day

Republic Day

Republic Day, one of India's three national holidays, is a celebration to mark the introduction of the country's constitution, which occurred in 1950 three years after its independence from England. Republic Day is celebrated every year on January 26 with a large parade in the capital of New Delhi, in which the prime minister lays a wreath at the national war memorial Amar Jawan Jyoti. Of course, there are always smaller celebrations scattered throughout the country, and since most business, schools, and government offices are closed, this allows most citizens who wish to join one or more of the celebrations to easily do so.

    75 Years Later

      In 2022, 75 vintage and modern
      aircraft from the Indian Air Force
      performed a fly-by to mark the 75th
      anniversary of India's independence.

     Want to Know More?

      Check out this article from Asia
      Society
, read about this year's
      Google Doodle, or see what the
      Hindustan Times had to say about
      this year's Republic Day celebration.

Children's Day

Children's Day

Children's Day, not to be confused with World Children's Day (November 20), is a holiday celebrated in North and South Korea. Each of the two Koreas has its own way of celebrating.

Most countries that have their own Children's Day do not give workers or children the day off, but in South Korea, salaried workers are given the day off, and children do not have to attend school. The intent is to allow families the chance to bond and celebrate the country's most precious asset: its children. In South Korea, Children's Day is always on May 5.

The first Children's Day was celebrated in 1923, thanks to the efforts of activist and children's book author Beong Jeong-hwan who believed that the Korean society of the time did not treat children as it should. Temporarily abolished in 1937 under Japanese rule, Children's Day has continued unabated since 1946.

    What about the North?

     So how is Children's Day different
     in North Korea?

     First of all, it is celebrated on
     June 1 instead of May 5.

     Secondly, the emphasis is not
     so much on the children
     themselves as it is on the North
     Korean leader.

     Children are expected to participate
     in political activities that include
     singing hymns to Kim Jong-un.

Other Holidays & Festivals

Want to learn more about other holidays and festivals? See below for descriptions of celebrations from all over Asia and the Pacific. Most lists like this are written with tourists or students in mind but are also great if you just want to expand your knowledge of various cultures.