Winter Holidays Around the World

There May Be More Than You Think

Jared Swislow, Staff Reporter/Photographer

Wintertime, especially December and January, is often thought of as a time of rest and relaxation. However, in reality, there are many holidays celebrated at this time of year. While there is much more to all of these holidays, here is a brief description of some, in chronological order.

Hanukkah(12-12 to 12-20)

Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday celebrating the rededication of the holy land to the Israelites in 2nd century BC. A small band of Jews lit a menorah with a single cruse of olive oil and it lasted eight nights, allowing them to rededicate the holy land to them.

Now, Hanukkah is celebrated with many different aspects. Hanukkah lasts eight days and is based on the Hebrew Calendar. Families celebrate this by lighting a menorah with a number of candles corresponding to the day. A menorah is a candelabrum with nine branches to represent the eight days that the Jewish people had a lit candle and one other candle, called the Shamash, that is higher or lower than the others.

It is also tradition to give the kids money on each night, but is more common to give them gifts. In addition people enjoy certain foods on Hanukkah such as latkes and often play a game with a driedel, a four sided spinning top with Hebrew letters on it.

Yule(12-21 to 1-1)

Yule is a Pagan tradition that begins on the winter solstice and lasts for twelve days and celebrates the rebirth of the Sun and the Sun God. On that night, the longest night of the year the pagans used to pray for the Sun to come back because they knew that they would die without it.

Now, Neopagans celebrate with prayers, altars, and various rituals. Often they burn a yule log to celebrate the return of the Sun each year.

These people also have a ritual to start a new life, metaphorically, similar to New Years’ Resolutions. Other rituals include donation and cleansing. Yule has also inspired Christmas, with fires and decorated trees.

Christmas(12-25)

Christmas, as many people are familiar with in America, celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, believed, by Christians, to be the Savior, sent by God. It is celebrated on what is thought to be his birthday and is used to honor him for what he has done.

Now, it is often celebrated by many people, not just of the Christian faith, by decorating a Christmas tree, inspired by Yule, and celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. People also decorate with lights, mistletoe, and many other decorations.

People may also send cards to relatives or friends, but most people give gifts on Christmas. Many people give gifts to each other, but Christmas is also related to Saint Nicholas or Santa Claus.

Kwanzaa(12-26 to 1-1)

Kwanzaa is a holiday celebrating African culture in African-Americans. This includes singing, dancing, poetry, African drums, and many other parts of African culture.

Now, Kwanzaa is celebrated by lighting a different candle on a Kinara, to represent seven ideals of Africans. These are unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. Once a candle is lit, the respective ideal is discussed.

In addition to ideals, Africans also celebrate symbols during Kwanzaa. These are the Mat, the Unity Cup, the Crops, the Candleholder, the Seven Candles, the Corn, and the Gifts. Sometimes African-Americans also celebrate Bendera, a certain flag, and Nguzo Saba Poster, a poster explaining the seven ideals.

 

Overall, while many people in America only know about Christmas, there are many other holidays around the winter season. These are just a few examples of these diverse celebrations.