Holidays around the world

By Lola Reyna

Variations of Christmas across religions and cultures are celebrated worldwide, and it is considered one of the largest holidays during the year, but it is not always about Santa Claus and Christmas trees. There are so many different traditions and celebrations to be had around the world this month. Let’s get to know them.

Hanukkah

Hanukkah is a Jewish celebration that lasts eight days (November 28 — December 6). During this time, those who celebrate will light a new candle on the Menorah (pictured above) after sundown everyday.

The Menorah tradition started after the second temple experienced a miracle: even though there was only enough olive oil to keep the Menorah burning for a day, the flame continued flickering for eight days straight. The ninth candle, which is called the Shamash, is used to light the other candles. People of the Jewish faith also typically recite blessings during the ritual.

Traditional Hanukkah foods are fried in oil to represent the oil miracle like latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly-filled donuts.) Other Hanukkah practices are playing with dreidels, exchanging gifts and the reading of scriptures.

Kwanzaa

Kwanzaa is a week-long celebration (December 26 — January 1), and it was created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga after the Watts Rebellion. The Watts Rebellion was a chain of riots in Los Angeles that started on August 11, 1965. It lasted about six days in a predominantly black neighborhood.

It is a cultural holiday, not a religious one, and its purpose is essentially to celebrate African heritage, unity and culture.

Each family may celebrate it a little differently, but the festivities often include songs, dances, storytelling and a large traditional meal. On each of the seven nights, the family gathers to light a new candle on the Kinara, emphasizing one of the seven principles (Nguzo Sada), which are unity, self determination, responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.

Omisoka

Omisoka is a Japanese celebration that happens on what we call New Year’s Eve. This holiday is also to celebrate the fresh start of a new year, so most people usually do deep cleans of their homes and take a bath to represent the cleansing of their bodies.

The traditional food they eat for dinner on the night of the holiday, usually hosted around 11pm, is called soba noodles. They believe that if you eat long noodles, you will have a long life and that it will also help you cross over to the next year.

To end the night, once the clock hits twelve, most families go to temples and ring a large bell 108 times as a symbol of the 108 human desires and passions of their culture.

Las Posadas

This Mexican religious festival begins December 16 and ends December 24. Las Posadas commemorates the journey that Joseph and Mary made from Nazareth to Bethlehem in search of a safe refuge where Mary could give birth on Christmas Day.

Each evening during the festival, a child dresses up as an angel and leads a parade through the streets. This parade is usually made up of children dressed up in gold and silver robes carrying candles and images of Mary and Joseph. At each stop, passages of scripture are read and carols are sung.

Bodhi Day

Celebrated on December 8th, this Buddhist holiday honors the day that Buddha experienced enlightenment. It is a peaceful holiday that many followers of this faith spend meditating and praying, focusing on their four noble truths: the truth of suffering, the truth of the cause of suffering, the truth of the end of suffering and the truth of the path that leads to the end of suffering. Some may also decorate their homes with statues of Buddha.

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