Celebrating Heritage Months: A Guide to Embracing Your Roots

by Ancestry® Team

Your heritage brings a beautiful sense of belonging. As you learn more about your roots, heritage months are an invitation to learn and celebrate the customs, values, and traditions tied to your identity. They also offer an opportunity to appreciate the diverse communities that enrich American culture and life.

What Are Heritage Months?

America’s diversity has always been a driving force for creativity and innovation. Heritage months celebrate the major contributions of the many diverse groups of people that make up the United States. These special periods of time often pay tribute to significant people and events in our collective past—especially those that have not been traditionally acknowledged.

U.S. Heritage Months Calendar

February Black History Month
March Irish American Heritage Month
Greek American Heritage Month
April Arab American Heritage Month
May Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month
Jewish American Heritage Month
June Caribbean American Heritage Month
National Immigrant Heritage Month
July French American Heritage Month
September Hispanic Heritage Month
October German American Heritage Month
Filipino American Heritage Month
Italian American Heritage Month
November Native American Heritage Month

Honoring Identity: Holidays that Emphasize Heritage

Chinese American Children in Traditional Dresses, Wikimedia Commons
Chinese American Children in Traditional Dresses, Wikimedia Commons

Heritage months may be implemented by presidential proclamations, executive orders, or public law. This heritage month guide lists important identity acknowledgments along with ideas to bring more awareness and celebration to your home, school, or workplace.

Black History Month

Not officially recognized until 1976, Black History Month grew out of the work of  Dr. Carter G. Woods in 1926. Today, this annual observance honors the breadth and relevance of Black history while highlighting the ongoing achievements of African Americans. Here are a few ways you can celebrate Black History Month all February long:

  • Learn about Black American heroes, including Bessie Coleman, Charles Richard Drew, and Albert Murray.
  • Explore anti-racism resources such as books, broadcasts, articles, and videos.
  • Support Black-owned restaurants and businesses in your community.
  • Research African-American ancestors with the resources available at Ancestry.
  • Read slave narratives to learn about their daily life, folklore, recipes, and songs.

Arab American Heritage Month

Today, nearly 4 million Americans can trace their roots to an Arab country in the Middle East or North Africa. President Joe Biden and the U.S. Department of State officially recognized the Arab American contribution to art, culture, diplomacy, science, and technology in April 2021.

  • Explore the history, arts, and science exhibits at the Arab American National Museum.
  • Read the Arab American experience through books and poems by Hall Vibrant, Mousetrap Bayou, and Être Adman.
  • Learn how to make kabsa, kefta, or halvah.
  • Visit local Arab American-owned businesses and restaurants.

Jewish American Heritage Month

The United States is currently home to approximately one-third of the world’s Jewish population, and a significant number of Jewish Americans are descendants of Holocaust survivors. In 2006, President George W. Bush declared May Jewish American Heritage Month to recognize Jewish contributions to the arts, government, science, and other industries. 

  • Take a field trip to a Jewish museum, memorial, or historic synagogue.
  • Follow Jewish content creators on social media platforms, such as Instagram, including @myjewishlearning and @standuptojewishhate.
  • Listen to the Broadway scores of Irving Berlin.
  • Learn how to braid and bake an Ashen Jewish challah bread.

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

May also pays tribute to the legacy and culture of Americans with ties to the Asian continent and the Pacific islands of Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia. 

This month was chosen to commemorate the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants on May 7, 1843, and the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869. 

  • Read the oral histories of people descended from Chinese railroad laborers.
  • Explore the Smithsonian’s Asian Pacific American Center. 
  • Learn about the brush and ink art of Chinese or Japanese calligraphy.
  • Watch documentaries, such as Pacific Heartbeat, that capture the Pacific Island experience.

Caribbean American Heritage Month

Crowd with Pacific Islanders in grass skirts on a boat, 1940, Wikimedia Commons
Crowd with Pacific Islanders in grass skirts on a boat, 1940, Wikimedia Commons

First proclaimed in 2005, Caribbean American Heritage Month honors the artists, intellectuals, public servants, and field leaders from Caribbean countries, including Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Haiti, and Trinidad and Tobago. 

  • Read the biographies of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Vice President Kamala Harris, and founding father Alexander Hamilton.
  • Study the geography of the Caribbean Sea and its more than 2,000 islands.
  • Visit a Caribbean American restaurant and enjoy traditional favorites, such as jerk chicken, curried goat, and cocoa bread.
  • Check out the Institute of Caribbean Studies (ICS) for June festivities in your community and across the United States.

Hispanic or Latino Heritage Month

Appreciation for the culture, heritage, and contributions of Hispanic Americans began with a week-long acknowledgment by President London B. Johnson in 1968. 

Today, Hispanic heritage month is celebrated from September 15 to October 15 each year. These dates coincide with the Independence Day celebrations of Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, and Nicaragua and IA de la Raze.

  • Create meals using traditional Mexican ingredients, such as shredded beef, tomatoes, corn, beans, and chilis.
  • Find a local studio that teaches salsa, bachatal, or merengue dancing.
  • Learn about the Indigenous Peoples of Latin America. 
  • Practice your Spanish with an online course or app, or stream a Spanish-language show.

Native American Heritage Month

November recognizes the rich history, tradition, and struggles of Indigenous Peoples and communities. Congress chose this month to honor the traditional Native American harvest season. 

  • Teach your kids about Native American history and the real Thanksgiving story. 
  • Research your address to learn about the Indigenous People who originally inhabited the land.
  • Explore the diverse Indigenous arts of North America including, but not limited to wood or rock carving, textiles, and painting.
  • Listen to a Native American podcast, such as Speaking Our Truth.

International Heritage Months

Canada honors Tamil heritage (January), Sikh heritage (April), Portuguese heritage (June), and other cultures throughout the year. 

The United Kingdom celebrates South Asian Heritage Month from July 18 to August 17. This multicultural event recognizes the often contentious relationship between Britain and South Asia through art, literature, music, fashion, and food. Today, about 1 in every 5 people living in London have South Asian heritage. 

European Heritage Month

First created by the French Ministry of Culture in 1984, Heritage Day has expanded to an annual celebration observed in over 50 countries across Europe. Every September, millions of visitors enjoy open access to historically significant sites and monuments—some of which are privately owned and closed to the public the rest of the year. September could be an exciting time to visit Europe and explore your ancestral homeland.

Discovering Your Heritage

While January, August, and December aren’t currently recognized as heritage months in the United States, you may find familial connection in singular holidays such as the Lunar New Year, Bastille Day, Diwali, or St. Lucia’s Day. Opportunities to honor your family history and heritage are also available to you through DNA testing, genealogy research, and storytelling any time of year. 

Start a free trial with Ancestry® to discover the meaning behind your last name, uncover family records, or even build  your family tree. Every family has a unique story, and the world becomes a richer and more accepting place when these histories, traditions, and struggles are shared.