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December Holidays Around the World

December is a month with more multicultural celebrations than any other. This last month of the year is a “world of holidays,” from Christmas to Omisoka. Let’s examine a few of the international holidays that fall in December.

Christmas Holidays

Christmas is the historical commemoration of Jesus Christ’s birth in Christianity. Christmas customs are different everywhere in the world, regardless of whether they are observed for this religious purpose or just as a cultural holiday. Christmas falls during Australia’s summer, when people love to go camping or to the beach over the holiday. Americans celebrate with Christmas trees, visits from Santa Claus, and visions of snowy landscapes. A native Australian tree with small green leaves and summer-turning red flowers is known as a “Christmas Bush” and is decorated by certain Australians.

Christmas customs in England are similar to those in the US, but Father Christmas receives mince pies and brandy from children instead of milk and cookies from Santa Claus. With its Christmas market and thirteen Santas, or Yule Lads, for the kids, Iceland’s capital city Reykjavik transforms into a winter wonderland. In the thirteen days leading up to Christmas, one shows up every night with little gifts in shoes left on window sills. Click this link to learn more about Christmas celebrations around the globe.

Hanukkah

Hanukkah, also known as Chanukah, is an eight-day Jewish holiday that honours the Second Temple’s rededication in Jerusalem after the Maccabean Revolt. Those who were present at the re-dedication saw what they saw as a miracle. The flames in the menorah remained lit for eight nights, despite the fact that there was only enough pure oil to last one day.

On the Hebrew calendar, Hanukkah, also called the Festival of Lights, starts on the 25th of Kislev. Traditionally, the menorah is lit during celebrations. After sundown on each of the eight nights of the holiday, a new candle is added to the menorah. The others are lit by the ninth candle, also known as the “helper” or shamash. Blessings are usually said, and traditional Hanukkah fare like oil-fried potato pancakes (latkes) and jam-filled donuts (sufganiyot) is served. Other Hanukkah traditions include gift-exchanging and dreidels play. Go here to find out more about Hanukkah.

Kwanzaa

Dr. Maulana Karenga founded Kwanzaa in 1966 in response to the Watts riots in Los Angeles. In addition to starting a cultural organisation called US, he began studying African “first fruit” (harvest) celebrations. From there, he blended elements of several distinct harvest festivals to create the foundation of Kwanzaa.

The Swahili term “matunda ya kwanza,” which meaning “first fruits,” is where the name Kwanzaa originates. While every family observes Kwanzaa in a different way, festivities frequently feature African drumming, storytelling, poetry readings, songs, and dances in addition to a substantial traditional meal. Families get together on each of the seven nights, and after a child lights a candle on the Kinara, a discussion is held about one of the seven principles, or values, that define African culture. On December 31, an African feast known as a karamu is held. Find out more about Kwanzaa’s tenets here.

Boxing Day

The 26th of December is Boxing Day. The holiday, which is only observed in a few nations, was first observed in the Middle Ages in the United Kingdom. It was the day that the alms boxes, which are collection boxes for the impoverished that are frequently kept in churches, were opened and their contents distributed. In certain places, this custom is still followed. Additionally, it was customarily the day off for servants to spend with their families celebrating Christmas.

Today, among other nations, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand observe Boxing Day as a public holiday. Boxing Day is often associated with horse races and football matches in England. The Irish call the day St. Stephen’s Day, and they have a custom known as hunting the wren, where boys dress up as wrens and parade them around the town. The Bahamas hold a festival and street parade known as Junkanoo in honour of Boxing Day. Find out more about Boxing Day’s history here.

Ōmisoka

As the last day of the old year and the eve of New Year’s Day, the most significant day of the year, Ōmisoka, or New Year’s Eve, is regarded as the second-most important day in Japanese tradition. On Ōmisoka, families get together for a final meal of the year, usually a bowl of toshikoshi-soba or toshikoshi-udon. The custom involves consuming the long noodles to mark the transition from one year to the next.

Many people visit temples or shrines in honour of Hatsumōde at midnight. Most Buddhist temples have large cast bells that are struck once for each of the 108 earthly desires thought to cause human suffering, and Shinto shrines prepare amazake to distribute to crowds. Go here to find out more about Ōmisoka.

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