October Celebrations and Culture

October may be best known for fall festivities such as Halloween, but there is also a multitude of noteworthy cultural celebrations. Let’s look at some opportunities to keep in mind amongst planning those pumpkin patch visits.  

Indigenous Peoples’ Day 

2021 marked the first time that a U.S. president officially acknowledged Indigenous Peoples’ Day via proclamation. The second Monday in October now signifies a day to celebrate and honor the historical and cultural contributions of Native Americans. It is also a day to reflect on the impact of colonialism on Native communities. 

Several cities and states have chosen to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day rather than Columbus Day which shares the same date. A sentiment exists that Columbus Day romanticizes the exploration that led to the genocide and enslavement of America’s native people. 

The pivot away from celebrating Columbus Day allows us to rethink how we view American history. This holiday recognizes the native people that populated the Americas before foreign exploration rather than focusing on the erroneous account of the discovery of America. It supplies an opportunity to celebrate the beauty of this nation’s native people while also recognizing the pain that they’ve endured through colonialism. 

Filipino American History Month 

Filipino American (Fil-Am) History Month commemorates the history, culture, heritage, and achievements of Filipino Americans. October is significant as it marks the first recorded Filipino presence in the U.S. A group of Filipino sailors, Luzones Indios, worked aboard the Spanish trading ship Manila galleon Nuestra Senora de Esperanza (Our Lady of Hope). The ship docked in Morro Bay, California after traveling from Macao, China on October 18, 1587. To date, Filipino Americans are the third-largest Asian-American ethnic group in California and the second-largest in the United States.  

The First Young Filipino People’s Far West Convention took place in Seattle, Washington in 1971 and was considered the beginning of the Filipino American Movement. The convention brought young people together to highlight the need for workers’ rights and social justice in the Filipino community. The National Historical Society (FANHS), established in 1982, has continued its efforts in the fight for social justice. They keep the history of Filipino Americans alive through educational efforts such as lectures, films, artwork, and conferences. October was recognized by Congress as Fil-Am History month in 2009. 

Italian American Heritage Month 

Italian American Heritage Month is observed in October in conjunction with Columbus Day to celebrate the achievements and contributions of Italian immigrants and Italian Americans on U.S. culture. 

Between 1820 and 2000 over 5 million Italians immigrated to the United States. Immigrants, specifically from Southern Italy, felt the pressure to leave home due to poverty and a growing population. America offered the hope of a new, improved quality of life with jobs in coal mines, railroads, and farms. 

This heritage month was declared by proclamation in 1989 by President George H.W. Bush. Celebrations include parades, opportunities to learn the Italian language provided by language labs, exploration of Italian cuisine, and art exhibitions. 

LGBTQ+ History Month 

LGBTQ+ History Month was started by Rodney Wilson, a Missouri high school history teacher in 1994. The following year the General Assembly of the National Education Association passed a resolution including LGBT History month in its list of commemorative months. October coincides with National Coming Out Day (October 11) and the first march on Washington for gay and lesbian rights in 1979. 

According to GLAAD, “During the early years, the celebration was largely marked by a call to action and commemoration. But since then, LGBT History Month has blossomed into a nationally coordinated effort to highlight exemplary role models from the LGBT community. Since 2006, this push has so far been led by LGBT rights and education organization Equality Forum.” 

The month now includes Spirit Day on October 20, where people wear purple to support LGBT youth; Ally Week, where allies against LGBT bullies are celebrated; and the October 12, 1998, anniversary of the murder of Matthew Shepard which led to the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in 2009.  

Polish American Heritage Month 

Polish American Heritage Month has been celebrated since 1981. Congress passed a resolution in 1984 declaring August as the month of celebration. President Ronald Reagan changed the month to October two years later.  

Why October? It commemorates the first Polish immigrants’ arrival in Jamestown, VA in 1608. The transition from August to October also allowed for schools to take part in celebrations. Contributions of Polish Americans include advancements in education, science, sports, politics, engineering, music, and art, to name a few.  

The opportunity to celebrate a new culture is abundant in October. Whether it be a parade, a lecture, an art exhibition, or reading a book, you are encouraged to learn more about the cultural contributions that have created the melting pot that is our great nation.