November Celebrations and Culture

The holidays are upon us, but there is much more to celebrate in November than Thanksgiving and Black Friday. The year may be coming close to an end, but the opportunities for diversity and inclusion are abundant. Here are some options to increase your cultural competence.

Native American Heritage Month

This month serves as the opportunity to commemorate our nation’s first people. Native American Heritage Month celebrates the rich history and culture of American Indians and Alaska Natives.

In addition to honoring our Indigenous peoples’ heritage and history, this month also highlights the need for continued commitment to establishing trust, upholding treaty responsibilities, climate and environmental impacts on protected land and water sources, and supplying equitable medical support to natives and Tribal Nations.

There were efforts to set up a formal American Indian Day dating back to 1915, with New York and Illinois declaring the day officially in 1916 and 1919, respectively. President George H.W. Bush approved a joint resolution appointing November as National American Heritage Month in 1990.

Interested in ways to celebrate? Google Arts & Culture has curated a comprehensive list of experiences in collaboration with the Smithsonian National Museum of American Indian (NMAI).


Diwali is India’s most significant holiday of the year. The Diwali festival is as important to the Hindu community as the Christmas holiday is to Christians. The holiday is observed on the new moon in the month of Kartik, the eighth lunar month in the Hindu calendar.

The festival is named for the clay lamps (Avali) that Indians light in a row outside of their homes to symbolize the inner light that protects them from spiritual darkness. Over time, Diwali has also become a celebration for non-Hindu communities such as Jainism, which celebrates spiritual awakening (nirvana), Sikhism, which honors the Sixth Sikh Guru Hargobind Ji’s release from imprisonment; and Buddhists.

The story of Diwali is interpreted differently depending on where in India you live. Northern, Southern, and Western India all tell the story differently, but what is consistent is the triumph of good over evil.

The five-day festival includes the following activities:

Day 1: Clean your home and create rangoli on the floor of your home.

Day 2: Purchase and prepare special food, especially mithai. In southern India, this is the primary day of Diwali.

Day 3: The primary day of Diwali. Families gather, light lanterns and candles, and shoot off fireworks. There are also extravagant feasts.

Day 4: Traditions vary, but they focus on the relationship between husband and wife. The husband will often supply a gift to his spouse in celebration.

Day 5: Siblings, specifically brothers, and sisters, celebrate on this day. Brothers often visit their married sisters, where they are welcomed lovingly and share an elaborate meal.

International Day of Tolerance

The United Nations established November 16 as the International Day of Tolerance by resolution in 1996. The day is focused on the respect of human rights, inclusion, opportunity, and education of all people. It encourages open dialogue and understanding of cultural differences to coexist harmoniously while celebrating and honoring our unique differences.

Dutch American Heritage Day

America and the Netherlands share a longstanding friendship dating back to November 16, 1776. A small American warship docked on the Dutch island of St. Eustatius, West Indies, where they were greeted with a friendly salute of cannon fire.

The United States was newly established, as it had rebelliously declared its independence from Great Britain. The Netherlands was the first foreign government to show respect and trade with the U.S.

This special friendship and the cultural and historical contributions dating back to the early 17th century encouraged President George H.W. Bush to sign a proclamation in 1991, solidifying November 16 as Dutch American Heritage Day. The relationship between the U.S. and the Netherlands is one of the longest-standing unbroken diplomatic relationships with a foreign country.

Transgender Day of Remembrance

November 20 is an annual day of remembrance for transgender people who lost their lives in acts of anti-transgender violence. The day was founded by Gwendolyn Ann Smith in 1999 as a vigil in honor of the memory of Rita Hesler, a transgender woman killed in 1998.

“Transgender Day of Remembrance” highlights the losses we face due to anti-transgender bigotry and violence. I am no stranger to the need to fight for our rights, and the right to simply exist is first and foremost. With so many seeking to erase transgender people — sometimes in the most brutal ways possible — it is vitally important that those we lose are remembered, and that we continue to fight for justice.” – Transgender Day of Remembrance founder Gwendolyn Ann Smith

Consider attending or planning a vigil to honor the memories of those who lost their lives to anti-transgender violence on November 20. The vigils often include reading the names of those lost that year and are hosted at community centers, parks, or places of worship. GLAAD is an excellent resource for more information.

November offers an abundance of opportunities to celebrate outside of your customary traditions. We hope you feel encouraged to continue learning more about the diverse cultures that make up our communities.