December 24, 2019 |
Christmas and the New Year are some of the most popular holidays around the globe, with people of all nations and languages praising solidarity and new beginnings. But they’re not the only significant holidays to celebrate this season.
Christians or not, different populations celebrate holidays that share some similar themes with Christmas. It’s the perfect time for family reunions, catching up with old friends, helping people in need, taking vacation, and exchanging gifts.
Here are six holidays celebrated around the world during this season of joy and happiness.
Diwali, also called the Festival of Lights, is a five-day-long Hindu festivity. The holiday occurs earlier than the others in the list, but the celebration focuses on the same principles: life, family, and the victory of good over evil.
Diwali takes place in October or November, as its exact date is calculated using the Hindu lunisolar calendar. It brings together feasts, family gatherings, and fireworks.
During this festival, people clean their homes, make sweets, light up their houses, exchange gifts, and have parties with family and friends. One of the most popular Diwali traditions is decorating the house with beautiful rangoli in vibrant colors. In some regions, people also use flowers to decorate doorsteps.
On December 25, billions of Christians celebrate Christmas to remember the birth of Jesus Christ. The holiday is also popular thanks to the legendary figure of Santa Claus. With different names around the world, from Father Christmas and Saint Nicholas to Kris Kringle, this character is known for bringing gifts for children on Christmas Eve.
During this holiday, people go to church, prepare special family meals, gather with friends, buy presents, and try to help people in need. Some traditional meals are Christmas pudding (in the UK), panettone (in Italy), roast pig (in the Philippines), tamales (in Costa Rica), and the Christmas goose (in Germany). In many parts of the world, Christmas songs can be heard during the holiday season.
One of the most popular Christmas traditions is decorating the Christmas tree. It’s an evergreen conifer that people (especially children) decorate with garlands, lights, and colored ornaments.
Some countries in Eastern Europe, like Russia, Ukraine, and Serbia, celebrate Christmas on January 7. The difference comes from the fact that the Russian Orthodox Church still uses the old ‘Julian’ calendar for religious celebration days. In these countries, the holiday season starts on December 31 and lasts until January 10.
Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday to which people dedicate eight days and nights. The celebration begins on the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev, which can be anywhere between November 28 and December 26.
The Jewish Festival of Lights commemorates the rededication of the Second Jewish Holy Temple in Jerusalem. The historical event happened in 165 BCE/BC (before Jesus was born).
In Hebrew, Hanukkah means “dedication.” People light candles on each of the eight nights in menorahs (candelabras). On the first night, they light one candle, two on the second night, until all are lit on the eighth and final night of the festival.
The eight candles are called a hanukkiah. The candle used to light the hanukkah is called the shammash (servant candle), is placed in the center of the other candles, and has a higher position.
During Hanukkah, Jewish people have family reunions, exchange gifts, and play many traditional games. Traditional food includes brisket, kugel, donuts, Hanukkah gelt (coin-shaped chocolate), and potato pancakes (latkes).
Las Posadas is a religious festival that takes place before Christmas in most countries in Latin America, including Mexico, Guatemala, and Cuba. Hispanics in the U.S. also celebrate it. The holiday starts on December 16 and ends on December 24.
Each evening, people perform a ritual guided by a child dressed as an angel. Children dressed in robes and carrying candles start a procession through the streets of the town, followed by adults, including musicians.
The procession recreates the Biblical Christmas story of Mary and Joseph riding a donkey, looking for a place to spend the night. The participants visit selected homes and ask for lodging for the two. As tradition requires, hosts refuse to lodge but often provide refreshments. At each stop, people read passages of the Scripture and sing Christmas songs.
Each night after the procession, people join a Mass. Once the service is over, children break open star-shaped piñatas filled with candy and toys–in memory of the star that has guided the three wise men to the newborn Jesus.
Kwanzaa is a one-week holiday that honors African culture in the United States. Five million people celebrate Kwanzaa in this country between December 26 and January 1.
The celebration is focused on seven principles (called Nguzo Saba), a set of values of African culture, created by Dr. Maulana Karenga. Each day, family members gather together, and a child lights one candle in the Kinara (candleholder), then one principle is discussed.
Celebrations include African drums, songs and dances, storytelling, poetry reading, and a large traditional meal on the sixth day of Kwanzaa. During this holiday, people exchange gifts of Kuumba (creativity).
The last holiday in the list is the Chinese New Year, which is celebrated sometime between January 21 and February 20, according to the Lunar calendar. The celebration starts on the first day of the lunar new year and lasts for 15 days.
The last day of this holiday is known as the Lantern Festival, which people celebrate at night with a parade. As for the Chinese tradition, the Chinese New Year marks the end of winter and the beginning of spring. As with all other celebrations, it’s a time for family reunions, gatherings with loved ones, eating specific foods, and enjoying time together.
As part of the celebration, people eat dumplings, exchange gifts, and drink wine made for this holiday. Children receive lucky money in red envelopes. The tradition says that people grow one year older at the Spring Festival. About 20 percent of the world’s population celebrates the Chinese New Year.
All these holidays are about having your loved ones close, spending time with your family, and helping the people in need. They are a time to enjoy, offer and receive gifts, and, overall, be grateful for all the things in your life.
Whatever you celebrate this season, the Clear Words team wishes you Happy Holidays!