Editor’s Note: This story was originally published on March 21, 2016 and has been updated.
March 21 is making headlines for its fierce spring snowstorm. But that’s not the only distinction on this day. It’s also the busiest spot on the United Nations’ calendar of international observances, with five different U.N.-declared “Days.” Here’s a rundown:
International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
On this date in 1960, police in Sharpeville, South Africa, killed 69 peaceful demonstrators protesting the country’s apartheid laws. It’s remained an important anniversary — and is also the first day of the Week of Solidarity with the Peoples Struggling Against Racism and Racial Discrimination.
In a speech on Tuesday at the U.N. General Assembly, U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres called for the world to “consider how we can better promote tolerance, inclusion and respect for diversity in all nations and among all communities.” He cited the “egregious treatment of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar” as one example of the “racism, xenophobia and intolerance, including anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim hatred,” that is seeing an “alarming rise.”
World Poetry Day
UNESCO proclaimed this date back in 1999,
To celebrate a way that creativity can shine.
Our blog is happy to add to the poetic supply
International Day of Nowruz
More than 300 million people around the world celebrate the arrival of spring with a holiday — Nowruz, which is Farsi for “new day.” Although it’s called the “Persian New Year,” Nowruz is observed far beyond Iran. The U.N.’s reason to cheer: It’s a day for renewal, respect for nature, a reminder of cultural interchange and eating a lot of sweets.
World Down Syndrome Day
Since 2012, the U.N. has observed a day to raise awareness about this intellectual disability caused by a chromosome disorder. According to the World Health Organization, approximately 3,000 to 5,000 children are born with Down syndrome each year and often face additional medical problems, including heart disease and hearing deficits.
World Down Syndrome Day organizers also urge people to wear lots of socks — the louder the pattern, the better — so when people ask why, it’ll start a conversation. (No, we’re not making this up.)
International Day of Forests
It’s great that forests have their own day. But what about lonely trees not in forests? Don’t worry — they are officially part of the celebration. (Seriously.) This year’s theme is: “Forests and Sustainable Cities.” As the U.N. points out: Trees in urban areas can, among other things, “cool and filter the air,” shield homes from noise pollution and provide “fruits, nuts, leaves and insects” for locals to eat, sell or turn into medicines. And in honor of World Poetry Day and the unusual weather on March 21, 2018, we might add:
I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a snow-covered tree.