Wrapping paper, candy canes, and evergreen… Christmas gets a lot of attention this time of year! However, Christmas isn’t the only holiday worth mentioning. All over the world, people of many different cultures find a reason to celebrate in the winter months. Read about a few of the most significant ones, and maybe you’ll be inspired to add to your list of holiday happiness!
Of course, you know Christmas. This celebration is enjoyed around the world with gift-giving, merrymaking, and various versions of Santa Claus. Depending on the part of the world, people will gather in family or community groups to eat delicious Christmas meals. Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus, the Christian savior who was born in a stable in ancient Israel. Church celebrations, choirs, and ceremonies are common in all corners of the earth.
Hanukkah is a Jewish celebration commemorating the miracle of the Maccabean Revolution. After the restoration of the Temple following Greek desecration, the lamps within the holy building burned for a week on a day’s worth of oil. Families celebrate by lighting the menorah for eight feast days in a row. Observers eat traditional foods and play gambling games with the dreidel, usually for nuts or other snacks.
This is the youngest holiday at only about 50 years old. Kwanzaa is a celebration of African culture and heritage which is recognized throughout the Western African diaspora. The holiday celebrated seven core values. The central heart of the holiday emphasizes family and heritage, and people of African descent make food and wear clothing that reflects their family’s roots.
The solar beginning of winter is a root of many celebrations around the world, from spiritual pagan rituals to scientific observations. The ancients also celebrated this; Stonehenge is thought to be an important site during this time of year.
New Year’s Day
The beginning of the new calendar year is a favorite with revelers around the world. In many cultures, people stay up until midnight in order to ring in the sNew Year. One of the biggest celebrations in the world happens in Times Square in New York City, where thousands of people pack into the freezing streets to watch the big, red ball drop on the stroke of midnight. Elsewhere in the West, fireworks and general mayhem ensue as the old year gives way to the new.
Three Kings Day
Did you ever wonder what the whole “12 Days of Christmas” this was all about? Well, prepare to be enlightened. In Latin America and Spain, Christmas doesn’t end until Three Kings Day, which celebrates the gold, frankincense, and myrrh that the wise men of the Orient brought to Baby Jesus. For many, the Christmas gift-giving doesn’t stop until Three Kings Day.
Chinese New Year. The Chinese New Year differs from the calendar New Year. It is based on a lunar calendar, so the date differs from year to year. The day is celebrated with family feasts, as well as some major spring cleaning and decorations that invite good luck and repel bad luck for the incoming year.
Las Posadas is a Latin American celebration that occurs during the Christmas season. During this nine-day period, people in Central American and the Southwestern United States sing Christmas carols from house to house while carrying a paper lantern. The festivities end with a piñata, food, and more singing.
This is a Muslim holiday that is observed by Muslims worldwide. The name of the holiday means “Feast of the Sacrifice.” It commemorates the Qur’anic story about Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son in obedience to God. In the account, God provides a ram to sacrifice in place of the child. On this day, Muslim families sacrifice their own animal. A third is eaten at home, a third is given to family and friends, and a third is given to the needy.
The Hindu festival of lights is celebrated in November. It represents the triumph of good over evil. Celebrations include bright lamps, new clothes, and firecrackers. This holiday is especially popular in Southeast Asia and India, although Hindus around the world observe the celebration.
Winter travel can be a great alternative to the scorching summer vacation or visiting Aunt Millie yet again. Exploring a different culture includes experiencing their traditions and celebrations. Not looking to travel so far? Many areas of the U.S. are home to diverse neighborhoods that may offer these celebrations closer to home.