Now that 2016 is firmly established in the Western world, Asia is ready to celebrate its entry into the New Year. If it were not for the stock markets around the globe, we could believe there are festivities everywhere. Click on any event below to learn more about it.
1 February – National Freedom Day – United States and Canada
This day honors the signing by Abraham Lincoln of a resolution outlawing slavery, which is known today as the 13th Amendment. This is also the celebration of the abolition of slavery in Mauritius, an island off the cost of Madagascar, which, on a lighter note, gave us, then took back, the dodo bird.
1 February – Constitution Day – Mexico
This holiday (first Monday of February) celebrates the ratification of the 1917 Constitution adopted after the Mexican Revolution. It was the first such constitution in the world to include social rights and served as a model for the 1918 Russian Constitution and the 1919 Weimar Constitution. All government offices, schools, and businesses are closed on this day.
2 February – Groundhog Day – United States and Canada
Punxsutawney Phil will predict the arrival of spring, in direct competition with the Weather Channel.
4 February – Liberation Day – Angola
This national holiday celebrates the beginning of the armed conflict against Portugal in 1961. Angola is one of the few Portuguese-speaking countries in Africa.
4 February – National Day – Sri Lanka
Following the colonization by the Portuguese then by the Dutch, the island fell under the control of the British in 1796, who renamed it Ceylon. On 4 February 1948, British Ceylon was granted independence, and in 1972, it changed its name to Sri Lanka.
7 February – Chinese New Year – China, Vietnam (Tet), Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, etc.
During the Spring Festival, many countries will celebrate the arrival of the Year of the Monkey. In China, hundreds of thousands of people will be travelling back to their home city or village. Expect major delays as early as the first week of February until the Lantern Festival, the 15th day of the new year. Each Chinese New Year is characterized by one of 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac. The next Year of the Monkey, the 9th animal in the cycle, will be in 2028.
From Italy to Brazil, Carnival is on its way.
8 February – Carnival – Worldwide
Carnival is a festive season that occurs before Lent, a period of approximately six weeks before Easter. In Lutheran nations such as Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, this is known as Fastelavn. The most picturesque carnivals are those of Rio, Brazil, and Venice, Italy.
9 February – Shrove Tuesday/Mardi Gras – UK/Australia, Europe, US, etc.
Last chance to eat rich food before Ash Wednesday (see below). It’s interesting to see how different people look at the same event: "Shrove" derives from the word shrive, meaning "absolve" whereas “Mardi Gras” is the French for "Fat Tuesday." The religious undertone of Mardi Gras is now gone for most people celebrating it, often over a week-long period.
10 February – Ash Wednesday – Christians Worldwide
Ash Wednesday derives its name from the practice of blessing ashes made from palm branches, themselves blessed on the previous year's Palm Sunday, and placing them on the head of participants. This is the first day of Lent, a 40-day period leading to Easter.
14 February – Valentine’s Day – Worldwide
Probably the most universal celebration in the world, Valentine’s Day goes back to the Roman times, resurrected with the tradition of courtly love in 18th-century England. Today, it is estimated that approximately 190 million valentines are sent each year in the US alone!
14 February – Mother’s Day – Norway
Although many countries celebrate a Mother’s Day, they each do it on a different date. Don’t forget your mom if you are an expatriate!
15 February – Statehood Day – Serbia
This day commemorates the outbreak of the First Serbian Uprising in 1804 against the Ottoman rule. The first Serbian constitution, known as the Candlemas Constitution, was adopted on the same day in 1835.
15 February – Presidents’ Day – United Sates
Originally, Washington's birthday was a US federal holiday celebrated on the third Monday of February in honor of George Washington, the first President of the United States. Now coined "Presidents’ Day," this holiday honors all US presidents.
21 February – International Mother Language Day – Worldwide
First announced by UNESCO in 1999, International Mother Language Day aims at promoting peace and multilingualism. The date corresponds to the day in 1952 when two students from the University of Dhaka, India, demonstrating for the recognition of Bangla as one of the two national languages of East Pakistan, were shot dead by police.
24 February – Independence Day – Estonia
The Republic of Estonia was founded on that day in 1918, following German then Russian occupation.
25 February – National Day – Kuwait
In 1756, the Al-Sabah family became the rulers of Kuwait, starting the dynasty that continues to this day. February 25th marks the day when Sheikh Abdullah Al-Salem Al-Sabah ascended to the throne in 1950. The 26th, or Liberation Day, commemorates the liberation of the country from the 1990 Iraqi occupation.
25 February – Revolution Anniversary – Philippines
"The revolution that surprised the world" as many headlines called it at the time (1986), is also called the People Power Revolution, the EDSA Revolution, or the Yellow Revolution. This national holiday commemorates the victory of the people against the authoritarian and repressive regime of then president Ferdinand Marcos.
27 February – Independence Day – Dominican Republic
The site of the first European settlement in the Americas founded by Christopher Columbus in 1492, Hispaniola ultimately split into Haiti and the Dominican Republic on this day in 1844. Since then, Dominican-Haitian relations have been quite unstable.
Month Long – Black History Month – US and Canada
Originally created as the “Negro History Week” in 1926 by historian Carter G. Woodson to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglas, it was not until the American Bi-Centennial in 1976 that President Gerald Ford expanded it to the Black History Month, urging Americans to "seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”