How to Observe Martin Luther King Jr.'s Birthday

Congress passed a law in 1983 to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday as an official U.S. holiday. His birthday was first officially observed as a legal federal holiday on January 20, 1986, and has been celebrated on the third Monday in January since then. Dr. King's true birthday is January 15.

Because of the significance and importance of the work that Dr. King did, it is fitting that we do something other than use Dr. Martin Luther King Day as a reason to chill or hang out. Most of us are not great orators or organizers of large-scale marches. However, there are things that we as individuals can do.

Learn about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It's amazing how many people, adults and children alike, don't really know anything about this great man. If you are an adult, read his speeches. Go online and watch videos of his marches. There is some really great content on the Internet about the work of Dr. King. Get an easy autobiography for children to read.

Explain to the children and teens in your life what nonviolence really means. Dr. King preached nonviolence. It takes a very strong person to react nonviolently to volatile situations.

Pray for your community. In some communities and cities, violence and crime are rampant. If you're particularly community-minded, organize a community prayer event.

Promote education. On Martin Luther King Day, send a donation to the United Negro College Fund.

Volunteer. Dr. King was a public servant, so in the spirit of humanity, do something for somebody else. There are many places that would appreciate your help, such as elementary schools where you can tutor and read to children, or hospitals, nursing homes or local soup kitchens.

Have a diversity lunch or dinner. Dr. King wanted all people to be able to come together. All you have to do is have different types of foods at the meal, such as Chinese, Italian, Greek, Jamaican or soul food. It's fun!

Reflect, remember and respond. What Dr. King stood for and what he fought for should not be forgotten. Reflect on the days when African Americans had no civil rights and what courageous people did to change that. Respond by doing your part, however small or large, to keep Dr. Martin Luther King's dream alive.