(1) Independence day
26 March, our Independence Day, is the one of the most important state festival. The day is celebrated every year in the country with great enthusiasm and fervour.
It is a national holiday. All offices, educational institutions, shops and factories remain closed on this day. The day begins with a 31 gun salute.
Early in the morning the President and the Prime Minister, on behalf of the nation place floral wreaths at the National Mausoleum at Savar. Then other leaders, political parties, diplomats, social and cultural organisations, educational institutions and freedom fighters pay homage to the martyrs.
People from all walks of life also go there in rallies and processions. There are many cultural programmes throughout the day, highlighting the heroic struggle and sacrifice in 1971.
In Bangabandhu National Stadium, school children, scouts and girl guides take part in various displays to entertain thousands of spectators.
Educational institutions also organise their individual programmes. Sports meets and tournaments are also organised on the day, including the exciting boat race in the river Buriganga.
In the evening, all major public buildings are illuminated with colourful lights. Bangla Academy, Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy and other socio-cultural organisations hold cultural functions. Similar functions are also arranged in other places in the country.
(2) International mother language day
21 February is a memorable day in our national history. We observe the day every year as International Mother Language Day. The day is a national holiday.
On this day, we pay tribute to the martyrs who laid down their lives to establish Bangla as a state language in undivided Pakistan in 1952. The struggle to achieve our language rights is known as the Language Movement.
The seed of the Language Movement was sown on 21 March 1948 when Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the Governor General of Pakistan, declared in a public meeting in Dhaka that Urdu would be the only state language of Pakistan. The declaration raised a storm of protest all over the country.
The protest continued non-stop, gathering momentum day by day. It turned into a movement and reached its climax in 1952. The government outlawed all sorts of public meetings and rallies to stop it.
The students of Dhaka University defied the law and brought out a peaceful protest procession on 21 February 1952. When the procession reached near Dhaka Medical College, the police opened fire on the students, killing Salam, Rafiq, Barkat, Safiur and Jabbar.
As a result, there were mass protests all over the country and the government had to declare Bangla as a state language. This kindled the sparks of independence movement of Bangladesh.
21 February is observed as Shaheed Dibosh every year throughout the country in remembrance of the martyrs of language movement of 1952.
The comme-moration begins at the early hours of the day with mourning songs that recall the supreme sacrifices of our language martyrs. People wear black badges and go to the Shaheed Minar in barefoot processions, singing mourning songs. They place wreaths at the Minar. Many of them visit the graves of the martyrs at Azimpur graveyard and pray for them. They also attend various programmes organised in remembrance of the language martyrs.
The UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) on 17 November in 1999 proclaimed February 21 as the International Mother Language Day in recognition of the sacrifices of the martyrs for the rightful place of Bangla.
Two Bangladeshi expatriates living in Vancouver in Canada, Rafiqul Islam and Abdus Salam, sent a proposal to Kofi Anan, the then secretary General of United Nations. They requested him to declare 21st February as the International Mother Language Day.
They added that the decision will honour and save all extinct languages of the world. As per their logical expectations Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina then took prompt initiative by sending formal proposal to UNESCO.
Finally, on 17 November 1999, UNESCO declared 21st February as the International Mother Language Day. The day is now annually observed worldwide to promote awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism.
(3) Pahela baishakh
‘Pahela Boishakh’ is the first day of Bangla new year. The day is a public holiday. This day has a special significance for us as it is a part of Bangalee culture and tradition.
People from all walks of life, irrespective of their ethnic identity or religious beliefs, celebrate the day with traditional festivities. On this day, the whole of Bangladesh is in a festive mood. The day inspires people to start life with renewed hopes aspirations.
Every year the day is celebrated traditionally. People wake up early in the morning, have a bath and wear traditional clothes.
Women wear white sarees with red borders and adorn themselves with colourful churis and flowers, while men dress themselves in pajamas and punjabis. It is a day when people love eating traditional food.
One of the most colourful events of the day is held in Dhaka. Early in the morning, people in hundreds and thousands pour in from all directions to attend the cultural function at Ramna Batamul organised by Chhayanaut.
The cultural programme begins just at sunrise and the renowned artists of the country take part in the programme that starts with the famous Tagore-song Esho-he-Boishakh, Esho Esho…..Artists also sing traditional folk songs, and perform classical dances to the rhythm of musical instruments.
People also come to join the colourful processions, the biggest carnival of the country, organised by the Fine Arts students of Dhaka University.
The procession usually displays the traditional practices of Bangalee culture. The masks and wreaths worn by the people are so fascinating! Often they symbolise contemporary worries or happiness in the national life. It attracts an increasing number of foreign tourists every year.
The day is also observed all over the country. Different social and cultural organisations and educational institutions celebrate the day with their own cultural programmes.
On this day, newspapers bring out special supplements. There are also special programmes on the radio and television.
The celebration of Pahela Boishakh marks a day of cultural unity for the whole nation.
(4) May day
May Day or International Workers’ Day is observed on May 1 all over the world today to commemorate the historical struggle and sacrifices of the working people to establish an eight-hour workday. It is a public holiday in almost all the countries of the world.
Since the Industrial Revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries in Europe and the US, the workers in mills and factories had been working a long shift, fourteen or even more hours a day.
On May 1st in 1886, inspired by the trade unions, half of the workers at the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company in Chicago went on strike demanding an eight-hour workday.
Two days later, a workers’ rally was held near the McCormick Harvester Machine Company and about 6000 workers joined it. The rally was addressed by the labour leaders.
They urged the workers to stand together, to go on with their struggle and not to give in to their bosses. At one point of the rally, some strike breakers started leaving the meeting place.
The strikers went down the street to bring them back. Suddenly about 200 policemen attacked them with clubs and revolvers. One striker was killed instantly, five or six others were seriously wounded and many others were injured.
The events of May 1, 1886 are a reminder that workers will continue to be exploited until they stand up and speak out to gain better working conditions, better pay and better lives.
(5) Mother’s day
Mother’s Day is not a public holiday in Bangladesh, but it is celebrated on the second Sunday of May every year.
It is a day to honor and appreciate mothers and mother figures worldwide.
The day is celebrated with great enthusiasm and love, with children expressing their gratitude towards their mothers by giving them gifts, flowers, and cards.
The day is also an opportunity to acknowledge the sacrifices that mothers make for their children and families.
In Bangladesh, Mother’s Day is celebrated with much fervor, with people organizing special events and programs to honor mothers.
It is a day to show our love and appreciation for the most important woman in our lives.