Around the world, people celebrate the winter holidays. Interestingly, many of these traditions share common features like lights, gifting presents to loved ones and the poor, as well as giving thanks for the bounty that the year has brought. Keep reading to learn more about six winter holiday traditions celebrated by people all over the world.
Image via Flickr by City of Marietta, GA
Christians celebrate Christmas all over the world by exchanging gifts. These gifts go under decorated Christmas trees available from places like www.christmaslightsetc.com. Most people hold the belief that Santa Claus delivers presents on a sleigh led by flying reindeer. In many Catholic traditions like Latin America, gifts get opened at midnight on Christmas Eve and people attend a midnight mass. While in the United States, people wait until the morning of December 25 to open gifts. Families usually gather together for traditional meals on the day gift opening takes place.
In New Zealand, Canada, Australia, and Britain, Boxing Day, also known as St. Stephen’s Day, takes place the day after Christmas. Common practices include giving gifts to the poor and needy, and in some places, to people who work in service positions. Traditionally, sporting events take place on this day as well.
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Celebrated around November in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Malaysia, and Singapore, among other places, Diwali is a five-day “festival of lights,” and each day has a special significance. Diwali translates into “row of lamps” lit to symbolize the victory of good over evil. People use firecrackers to celebrate and drive evil spirits away. Prior to the celebrations, they clean their homes thoroughly to welcome the Goddess of Wealth, Lakshmi. People also wear new clothes and share traditional sweets with family and friends.
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Also known as the “Festival of Lights,” Hanukkah is one of the most important Jewish holidays practiced by Jews around the world and in Israel. The festival celebrates the Jewish revolution against suppression and assimilation and the rededication of the Holy Temple. It lasts for eight days and nights, beginning on the 25th day of Kislev, according to the Hebrew calendar. Each day, a candle is lit on the menorah.
Kwanzaa means “first fruits” and refers to an ancient harvest festival celebrated in parts of Africa. The celebration emphasizes collective responsibility and work, self-determination, cooperation, purpose, creativity, faith, and unity. Beginning on December 26 through January 1, African-Americans decorate their homes with fruits and vegetables, wear tradition African clothes to honor their ancestors, use a communal cup for pouring wine, and light the ‘kinara’ candleholder.
Called the Feast of the Sacrifice, Eid-al-Adha is an Islamic holiday celebrated worldwide to honor the prophet Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his first-born son upon God’s command. The date varies according to the Islamic Lunar Calendar. Families dress in their finest clothing and pray in large congregations or at a mosque, thanking Allah for the blessings they’ve received. They also offer their best halal domestic animals as a symbol of Abraham’s sacrifice. Friends, neighbors, family, and the poor are all offered to share the meat.
These diverse winter holidays remind people around the world of what they share and have to give thanks for each year.