Winter is a time of year typically associated with the holiday season. It’s no surprise—after all, countries and cultures around the world celebrate a variety of holidays during the month of December. Here’s a brief look at some of the most popular wintertime holidays around the world and how they’re celebrated.
One of the most celebrated days of the year, Christmas takes place annually on December 25th to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ. People around the world celebrate Christmas by sending Christmas cards, giving gifts, spending time with family and, typically, going to church, though the holiday is also observed by non-Christians. Specific traditions vary depending on country, region and even individual families, but Christmas day festivities tend to center around a large feast shared with loved ones and the opening of gifts under the Christmas tree.
Christmas also involves festive decorating during the weeks leading up the holiday—including the tradition of putting up a Christmas tree and decorating it with bright lights and ornaments. Mistletoe, holly, garlands, wreaths and nativity scenes are some decorations commonly put on display for Christmastime. Other popular holiday customs include completing an Advent calendar during the month of December, exchanging Christmas cards and singing carols.
Santa Claus is also an integral part of Christmas in many countries, especially for children. While today’s Santa Claus figure is traditionally portrayed as a portly, red-dressed man with a white beard, he is thought to have originated with the 4th century Dutch Saint Nicholas or Sinterklaas. If you are interested in christmas traditions, wordings and phrases; take a look at this list of christmas sayings.
Celebrated in November or December, Hanukkah (also called Chanukah) is an eight-day Jewish celebration. The festivities center on the ritual lighting of the menorah, a nine-branched candelabrum. Each day of Hanukkah, one of these candles or oil-based lights is lit using the flame of the central candle. An accompanying tradition involves three Jewish blessings, which are recited over the menorah.
During Hanukkah, observers commonly sing songs, pray, play with spinning tops called dreidels and eat customary oil-based foods such as potato latkes, doughnuts and fritters.
Many Jewish people today celebrate Hanukkah as well as Christmas. The holiday is growing in popularity in Europe as well as the United States. As a result, many Hanukkah traditions have begun to blend with Christmas customs, especially during years when the holidays fall close together.
A week-long holiday, Kwanzaa celebrates African heritage with gift-giving and a feast with family—often in conjunction with Christmas festivities. Kwanzaa was founded by Maulana Karenga in 1965 in an effort to give African-Americans a dedicated holiday. Observed from December 26th to January 1st every year, Kwanzaa is based on traditional African harvest festivals that celebrate community, unity, faith and culture.
Kwanzaa ceremonies include decorating with African art and colorful fabrics, wearing kaftans, lighting kinara candles, playing music, singing and partaking in a feast called karamu.
Around the world, many cultures celebrate the New Year in some way. Often marked as a national holiday, January 1st represents the start of a new calendar year and is often preceded by much pomp and circumstance.
New Year’s Eve festivities typically take the form of evening parties and social events on December 31st, involving dancing, drinking alcohol, lighting fireworks or watching a fireworks display and counting down to midnight. In the United States, the New Year’s Eve midnight ball drop in Times Square bringing in as many as a million spectators each year. A popular custom is to make a toast or kiss someone when the clock strikes midnight. Other New Year’s Eve traditions vary widely across the world.
In some East Asian countries, however, the New Year does not begin on January 1st. The Chinese New Year or Lunar New Year takes place on the new moon of the first lunar month, which can be between January 21st and February 21st. The celebration that accompanies the Lunar New Year is the most important of all Chinese festivities.
The Lunar New Year is also celebrated in Korea and Vietnam. In Tibet, their New Year is called Losar and is celebrated any time from January through March.
This list is just the tip of the festive iceberg when it comes to holidays celebrated during the winter season. All around the world, one thing is certain about wintertime: ‘tis the season for family, feasts and festive gifts. Want to learn more about different holidays? Here is a list of different and interesting holiday card sayings and messages.