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Photograph of First Transcontinental Railroad, circa 1869. Credit: (Fotosearch—Getty Images)

May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month in the United States. The month of May was chosen to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese to the United States on May 7, 1843, and to mark the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869. The majority of the workers who laid the tracks on the project were Chinese immigrants. May is also Jewish American Heritage Month, which recognizes the diverse contributions of the Jewish people to American culture. And, May is Mental Health Awareness Month, promoting mental health as a critical part of overall wellness while educating the public about mental illnesses to reduce the stigma that surrounds it.

Other dates of observance:

May 5: Cinco de Mayo, a Mexican holiday commemorating the Mexican army’s 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War (1861-1867). This day celebrates Mexican culture and heritage, including parades and mariachi music performances.


May 12-13:  Eid al-Fitr (from sundown to sundown) is the first day of the Islamic month of Shawwal, marking the end of Ramadan. Many Muslims attend communal prayers, listen to a khutuba (sermon), and give Zakat al-Fitr (charity in the form of food) during Eid al-Fitr.

May 16-18: Shavuot (from sundown to sundown) is a Jewish holiday that has double significance. The holiday marks the all-important wheat harvest in Israel and commemorates the anniversary of the day when God gave the Torah to the nation of Israel assembled at Mount Sinai.

Credit: Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs

May 23: Pentecost is the celebration of the giving of the Ten Commandments by God at Mount Sinai.

May 31: Memorial Day in the United States is a federal holiday established to honor military veterans who died in wars fought by American forces.