Christmas is celebrated all across the world in so many different ways, but Christmas isn’t the only holiday that is celebrated this time of year. Other holidays that are celebrated around the world include Noel, Kala Christouyenna, Hanukkah, St. Lucia Day, Chinese New Year, and New Year’s Eve.
For many people in the United States, Christmas is one of the biggest holidays of the year. It is probably the most celebrated holiday in the world. Although Christians view the holiday as a celebration of Jesus Christ, the celebration has evolved into more of a day when people exchange gifts than a religious holiday. [i] In addition to giving gifts, some Americans celebrate Christmas by going Christmas caroling and big, family dinners. In other parts of the world the Christmas celebrations differ slightly.
In France, the word for Christmas is Noel.[ii] Noel, comes from the French phrase, “les bonnes nouvelles,” which means “the good news,” referring to the good news of the gospel. Also, people in southern France burn a log in their homes from Christmas Eve until New Year’s Day. It is a tradition by which farmers believed that part of the log would ensure good luck for the following year’s harvest.
Greece’s version of Christmas is called Kala Christouyenna. In Greece, many people believe in goblins called kallikantzeri that cause mischief during the 12 days of Christmas.
Hanukkah (or Chanukah) is another holiday that is widely celebrated. Hanukkah is a Jewish festival that is celebrated for eight days, during which Jewish people affirm the ideals of Judaism with a focus on the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem.[iii] As part of the Jewish tradition to commemorate the rededication of the temple, people light candles on each day of the festival. A game that is played during Hanukkah uses a four-sided spinning top called a dreidel. Some of the nonreligious traditions associated with Hanukkah are latkes (potato pancakes) and gifts of money given to children.
In Sweden, one of the biggest celebrations is St. Lucia’s Day (also known as St. Lucy’s Day), which is celebrated on December 13th.[iv] St. Lucia day is in honor St. Lucia who was one of the first Christian martyrs who was killed by the Romans because of her religious beliefs.[v] The St. Lucia Day festival begins with a procession in which young boys and girls dressed in white and the girls wear lighted wreaths on their heads. All the children sing traditional songs and the festival is meant to bring hope and light during the darkest time of the year. Most of the schools close around noon on St. Lucia Day so that the Families can prepare for the festival. Families celebrate the festival in their homes by having the oldest daughter dress in white and serve coffee, ginger biscuits and other baked goods to family members and guests.
Another major holiday is The Chinese New Year. The Chinese New Year is still the most important holiday in China, both socially and economically. [vi] The Chinese New Year is also known as the Spring Festival. It is a time for families to be together and it starts with the Reunion Dinner on the eve of the Chinese New Year.[vii] The festival generally lasts for 7 days and most Chinese will have those days off work. Many of the cultural celebrations include firecrackers, ancestor worship, dragon dances, traditional performances, and special Chinese snacks. The most common gifts given during the festival are red envelopes with money in them. They are usually given to children and retired seniors. Also, fish and Chinese dumplings are a must for Chinese New Year because it is believed to bring more money, good luck, and wealth in the coming year.
In the United States, New Year’s Eve is often celebrated by partying, counting down to midnight, and if you’re lucky, kissing that special someone when the clock strikes midnight. However, the New Year’s traditions in Ecuador are quite different. The main part of the New Year’s Eve celebration in Ecuador is something called “los años viejos,” which means “the old years.”[viii] The tradition of los años viejos is when the people of Ecuador make large dolls made of straw on December 31st. The large scarecrow-like dolls often resemble people they dislike or notable people from the past year, such as politicians or television characters. Sometimes the dolls are made with signs that list their sins. Then, at midnight, everyone lights the straw men on fire to symbolize forgetting the bad from last year and hoping for better in the coming year.
Many countries have similar ways of celebrating the holidays. At the same time, there are countries and holidays that are very different. For example, Christmas in Australia isn’t even celebrated in December. Australians celebrate Christmas in the middle of summer. From the United States of America to the Far East, people celebrate holidays with various special traditions and festivities, but the one thing they all have in common is spending them with family. No matter what the occasion is or what festivities are involved, the holidays give families the opportunity to take a break from their busy, hectic lives to come together for fun, fellowship, and hope for a better future.
Featured image by: Andrew Neel
By: Angela Lewis