Holidays Around the World
By: Srishti Bansal
When the leaves start changing colors and there is a chill in the air, you may hear people declaring that the “holiday season” has started. The holidays are fun, but what you may not realize is that there are a lot of different holidays celebrated in different countries and regions of the world! If your family is from a particular area or culture, you might celebrate some of these holidays already, but there may be others you have never heard of before. Let’s take a trip through the festivities of the world!
One holiday that is coming up soon is Thanksgiving! This holiday is unique on our list because it is actually unique to the United States (though other countries may have similar holidays with different origins). This holiday is a time when many groups of family and friends meet to share a meal and reflect on what they are thankful for. Although it was made an official holiday by Abraham Lincoln in 1863, Thanksgiving is said to have originated from a large feast celebrating unity between the Wampanoag Indigenous peoples and the immigrant pilgrims. While it’s true that a meal was shared, it was probably simpler than the feasts that might be shared today. Importantly, many people from the Wampanoag Nation have found it difficult to celebrate this holiday, since much of the common ideology surrounding Thanksgiving doesn’t fully acknowledge the troubling history of European hostility and violence against their people. Recently, however, many people have started to learn more about the history behind the holiday and change the way they think about it.
Christmas is a Christan holiday meant to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, however, it also has connections to the celebration of the winter solstice, a holiday that has been celebrated for thousands of years! During this holiday, families often spend time together decorating their homes with Christmas trees, twinkling lights, stockings, poinsettia flowers, and holly berries. The colors red and green are often associated with the holiday because of these common decorations. It is common for people to exchange gifts, and children may receive gifts from Santa Claus, AKA Kris Kringle, Father Christmas, Ded Moroz, or Saint Nicholas/Saint Nick in varying cultures around the world. Additionally, music and carols are a large part of some families’ traditions and allow people to share the spirit of the holiday with others.
Diwali, also known as the festival of lights, is a Hindu, Jain, and Sikh holiday. Diwali celebrates the return of the prince Ram and his wife Sita back to their homeland after a 14 year exile in the woods and a fight against the evil Ravan (light or “good” over darkness or “evil”). Families light diyas, which are oil or wax lamps, to provide light to help guide Ram and Sita back safely. It is also customary for families to make a rangoli, which is a design, usually on a front porch, made out of colored powder, as a tribute to the goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity, so that they may be blessed with good fortune for the coming year. Fireworks and sparklers are extremely popular during the holiday, and many families and friends can be seen lighting these outside their homes after a pooja, or prayer
Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead)
The Day of the Dead is a holiday that has long been celebrated in Mexico, although it’s a bit unclear where the holiday originated. The holiday celebrates the lives of loved ones who have passed on, and allows people to honor their ancestors and remember their fond memories in a positive, joyful way. People often spend time decorating homemade altars for the deceased with photographs, marigolds, and cavaleras, or sugar skulls. Additionally, many people bring gifts to the gravesites of loved ones and may even picnic nearby. The holiday also allows the living to have a day to spend time with one another and exchange gifts like cavaleras, and treats like pan de muerto are often shared.
Hanukkah is an eight day Jewish holiday celebrating the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. After a revolt against the Greek-Syrian invaders, the Jewish people of Jerusalem decided to rededicate their temple, and relight the altar. The problem was, the lamp needed to be burning consistently once the temple was dedicated, but there was only enough untainted oil for one day. However, the Hanukkah miracle allowed the light to burn for 8 days, which was enough time to find more oil. Families often celebrate this holiday by lighting one candle every day of an 8 candle menorah (a type of lamp), playing dreidel, a game with a spinning top, and eating latkes (potato pancakes) and challah bread.
Lunar New Year
The Lunar New Year is a holiday celebrating good luck and the beginning of spring! The holiday is celebrated in various East Asian countries. In most of the countries celebrating the holiday, it is customary to eat a large meal with family. However, each country has its own customs and traditions surrounding the holiday. For example, in China, it is customary to wear new red and gold clothing and for children to receive red envelopes with money inside. In Korea, it is customary for everyone to eat a bowl of rice cake soup, which symbolizes a fresh start and becoming a year older, and many people dress in traditional hanbok clothing. In Vietnam, the holiday is also known as Têt, and families often spend the day together and eat food such as bánh tét (a cylindrical snack) and bánh chưng (a square cake). Other countries where the holiday is widely celebrated include Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, and the Philippines.
Ramadan and Eid-al-Fitr
Ramadan is a Muslim holiday that lasts for 1 month. The holiday celebrates self-reflection and is a chance for people to strengthen their relationship with god. During this time, many who practice Islam will fast for the entire day and only eat once the sun goes down. After the sun goes down, family and friends often break their fast together with a shared meal. Eid-al-Fitr, which is often just known as “Eid,” occurs at the end of Ramadan, and many families and friends celebrate with one another and give to people in need. A common well wishing phrase during this holiday is “Eid Mubarak!”
These are just a few of the amazing holidays celebrated all over the world! Is your favorite on the list? Does your family celebrate a holiday that isn’t listed here? If you’re interested in learning about some more holidays that aren’t described here, try looking up some for yourself! Here are a few to get you started:
St. Lucia’s day
Have fun exploring!