Holidays Around The World

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Every winter, people decorate their houses with lights, set up Christmas trees, and celebrate the new year with fireworks. Christmas and New Year’s are largely recognized as traditional holidays of the U.S., but what about winter holidays that are celebrated in other countries that we may not know about?

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Diwali

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St. Nicholas Day and St. Lucia Day

Diwali (Festival of Lights) is a Hindu holiday that occurs in either October or November. Good is celebrated over evil by decorating houses with colorful lights and by gifting others. They also worship the Hindu goddess of wealth, Lakshmi. Diwali has become recognizable worldwide from India to the United Kingdom, and the vibrant festivals last up to five days.

In Europe, Christian festivals such as St. Nicholas Day and St. Lucia Day are celebrated. On Dec. 6, St. Nicholas Day is celebrated similarly to Christmas. Children write letters to Saint Nicholas and he leaves presents for them in the morning. Then, on Dec. 13, St. Lucia Day honors Saint Lucia, a Christian martyr. Children dress in white with the eldest daughter serving coffee and sweets to family members. It is a ceremony of lights and songs, celebrated mostly in Sweden.

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Las Posadas

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Hanukkah

Over in Latin America, the Mexican holiday Las Posadas occurs from Dec. 16 to Dec. 24. People parade the streets singing Christmas carols and holding candles. Communities are brought closer with dinner and parties. After dinner, members of the community take turns hitting a piñata which represents the seven deadly sins. Each night is a party until Christmas day.

Hanukkah (Chanukah), a historical Jewish holiday, begins Dec. 22 to Dec. 30. In Israel, they celebrate a victory won in battle over the Jewish Temple years ago. Also referred to as “Festival of Lights,” a menorah is lit every night for eight nights in a row. To thank God, blessings and the Hallel prayer are spoken. Children play with dreidels and are given money as presents for good behavior.

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Kwanzaa

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New Year's

Kwanzaa takes place Dec. 26 to Jan. 1 and is widely celebrated by African Americans and African culture. The Seven Principles (Nguzo Saba) has each principle observed for each day. These values contribute to the progress and hard work that people of African heritage have had to go through. Red, black, and green clothing are worn to symbolize the efforts for social change of the past and the future.

New Year’s is observed diversely around the world with some events on different days. On Dec. 31, Japan calls it “Omisoka” where cleaning one’s home and self is important as they enter the new year. In Denmark, citizens smash plates and jump off chairs to bring good fortune. On Feb. 8, both the Chinese New Year (Lunar New Year) and Korean New Year (Seollal) brings family reunions and hosts parades. During the Chinese New Year, family members give out money in red envelopes to symbolize good luck.

International winter holidays may not appear to be as prevalent in the U.S. but they’re still joyfully celebrated elsewhere. It’s an opportunity for families to truly take a break from their busy schedules to spend time together. Whether holidays are celebrated religiously or culturally, individuals can end the past year on a good note and look forward to the start of a new year worldwide.