The International Holiday Calendar: Who's Working When?

Holi hai! The Hindu festival of colors, now apparently also celebrated in North Carolina. Who knew? A holiday calendar check would tip you off. (Image courtesy rudresh_calls)

You’ve probably spent January dealing with the last of the decorations, cleaning house, planning ahead, crafting your editorial calendar, and doing other such organizational things. But before you launch into the year in earnest, here’s one last thing to add to your to-do list.

No wait! I promise that it’s incredibly quick!

Furthermore, it’ll probably help with that editorial calendar if you’re still struggling to flesh it out by the week.* Ready? Here it is.

Take one hour and build out an international holiday calendar.

You heard me. Pull up your work calendar, and match it with some of the basics out there.

The OPM Schedule

Know and mark the major federal holidays, courtesy of the US Government’s Office of Personnel Management, with notes on whether it’ll actually apply to your organization or neighborhood. (Not everyone countrywide gets MLK Day off, for instance.) Because nothing says “we’re addled” more than deadlines that fall on Thanksgiving week because you forgot that Turkey Day was early/late/exactly where it should be in the calendar this year. (Oh, but it happens.)

International Holidays

This is particularly important for international NGOs, or organizations with any kind of international area of focus or audience. Because nothing says “not ready for primetime” in South Asia better than scheduling a major ship-out in South Asia during Diwali. (Think Christmas-to-New-Year’s in the US, when everyone is out, whether or not they’re churchgoers.) Be smart, know what the rest of the world observes, and how it affects your work schedule.

Major International Observances

This is second nature to the non-profit world. Because so many missions and campaigns are directly linked to major international observances such as World Aids Day or Earth Day. But it’s good to check if you’re on the same page as partners elsewhere. For instance, November 11 is an international observance. But we call it Veteran’s Day while the rest of the world calls it Armistice Day. No idea what Armistice Day was? Right then, read up!

Sports Calendars

You know how everything comes to a standstill, or maybe goes into utter overdrive, during the Superbowl? Well, the rest of the world doesn’t play American football. It plays cricket and soccer (which is football to everyone else, because we just look like overpadded aliens in American football gear, in case you’re wondering). Shocking, I know, but it’s useful to check out an international sports calendar and know when your potential audience might be coming to a standstill or going into overdrive, no? (Psst, dear non-American audiences, this is where I urge you to be one with the American sporting schedule. About which I would continue to remain ignorant were it not for the ALL CAPS PLAY BY PLAY, courtesy of the Facebook feed.)

Solar, Lunar, Lunisolar Calendars and Moveable Feasts

Homemade Almond Roca
Eid Mubarak! Em, which one? And exactly when and where? (Image courtesy Saaleha)

This isn’t actually as non-American or largely international a concept as you might think. From Orthodox Christian Christmases and Easter, which vary every year; to lunar calendars that determine Muslim festivals and observances; to the lunisolar Jewish and Hindu calendars, religious observances are all over the map. If you live in any kind of diverse community, appeal to any kind of international audience, or are simply interested in the larger world past your geographic limits, take an hour. You’ll be amazed at what there is to discover, plan around, partner with, or simply appreciate in the world.

So we’re clear, I’m not advocating an editorial or office calendar that factors in every single “International Day of XYZ.” But if your organization’s mission is to draw attention to fair trade, health, or candy fundraisers, then hey, International Chocolate Day (September 13, in case you were wondering) is probably quite relevant to your fundraising, messaging, and editorial calendars. See what I mean?

(* Yes, by the week. Because once the year gets going you’ll be astonished how fast the ideas get written up. Do yourself a favor and build your content pipeline ahead of time.)