Across the globe, there are many holidays that countries celebrate during the month of December. These holidays bring families together, honor and create traditions, and are unique to the religions and cultures that they belong to. Christmas is one of the most popular celebrations when you think of winter holidays, but there are many other December holidays around the world that exist. We will be featuring six amazing winter celebrations in this article.
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The first December holiday around the world is Hanukkah, or Chankukah. This Jewish holiday honors the re-dedication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. The wintertime “festival of lights” involves lighting one candle on the menorah every night during the eight-day long celebration. While lighting a flame on the menorah, members recite special blessings and sing traditional songs afterward. In each household that celebrates Hanukkah, there is at least one menorah which they place in doorways or windows.
During Chanukah, which begins on the night of December 2nd, and ends December 10th it is customary to eat oil-fried foods. A traditional food is the potato latke (pancake), which is typically served with applesauce or sour cream. Another popular food is the jelly-filled sufganya (doughnut). Click this link to make your own potato latke.
Finally, a common activity during Hanukkah is playing with a “dreidel.” The dreidel is a four-sided top, decorated with the Hebrew letters gimmel, nun, shin, and hei. These letters are an acronym for a phrase that translates to “A great miracle happened here.” Depending on which letter the dreidel lands on determines if you win or lose. The prize for the winner is typically coins, treats, or little toys.
The Winter Solstice is known as midwinter, and it marks the day that has the shortest period of daylight and the longest night of the year. This phenomenon happens twice a year, once in the Northern Hemisphere in December, and once in the Southern Hemisphere in June. The 2018 Winter solstice happens on Friday, December 21st. Dates of the Solstice vary from year to year but falls between the 20th and 23rd of December. However, the next solstice occurring on the 23rd will not occur again until 2303. In ancient cultures, this day was known as a time of death and rebirth.
The Dongzhi Festival in East Asia, celebrates on the Solstice. The origins of this festival trace back to the principle of yin and yang. This philosophy represents balance and harmony. After the Dongzhi festival, the days will have longer daylight, thus having more positive energy to counteract the negative.
Additionally, in Iran, Yalda Night is held on the Solstice. Family and friends gather on the longest and darkest night of the year to eat, drink, and read poetry. Red food is often served to symbolize the hues of dawn and glow on this December holiday.
Another Holiday during December is Kwanzaa. African Americans typically observe this week long celebration. The seven day celebration honors African heritage and involves feasts and gift-giving. It is not a religious holiday, nor was its purpose to replace Christmas. Maulana Karenga is the founder of Kwanzaa and has come up with the seven principles of Kwanzaa; each day of the week they dedicate to one of the principles, and light a candle on the Kinara (candle holder) each night. The principles of Kwanzaa represent unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith.
In addition to the Kinara, families celebrating Kwanzaa use art, colorful African cloths, and fresh fruits to decorate their homes. It is important to include children in the ceremonies to honor and give respect and gratitude to their ancestors. A Kwanzaa ceremony can include drumming, candle-lighting rituals, artistic performances, libations, or reading of the African Pledge.
Finally, on December 31st, families gather for Karamu, which is a great feast. Traditional African dishes enjoyed at Karamu including sweet potatoes, spicy sauces, and collard greens.
This year in America, Kwanzaa begins on December 26th and ends January 1st.
🎁 St. Nicholas Day
In Germany, St. Nikolaus’ Day this holiday falls on December 6th. The night before, children place a shoe outside of their bedroom doors in hopes that Saint Nikolaus will bring them a gift and place it in their shoes. If the children have been good, they will wake to a treat in their shoe. For naughty children, Knecht Ruprecht (Saint Nikolaus’ helper) puts dry branches in the shoes. Saint Nikolaus is the patron saint of children who rides his donkey through the town to deliver gifts.
🍾New Years Eve
A universal holiday celebrated around the world in December is New Year’s Eve. This is an evening of social gathering and partying to end one year with a bang and start the next year off right. In the Gregorian calendar, New Year’s Eve (otherwise known as Old Year’s Day or Saint Sylvester’s Day) is the final day of the year, on December 31st. In many countries across the world, celebrations involve dancing, drinking, eating, and watching fireworks. There is also the classic New Year’s ball drop countdown in New York City, that can bring an entire room together to count down the final seconds of the year.
Because of time zone differences, Samoa, Tonga, and Kiritimati are the first places to ring in the new year, and Baker Island and the United States of America are among the last. Sydney, Australia has an annual New Year’s Eve fireworks display that the country televises so millions can watch.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Want a wild experience on the final day of the year? In Brazil, the new year symbolizes fresh starts and renewal. It is tradition for the Brazilians to wear new/never worn, white clothing, bathe themselves in the ocean water. While in the water, they throw small mementos into the surf in hope that they do not come back. The main event, however, is the firework display on Copacabana beach. These fireworks begin at midnight and are famous all over the world.
Lake Tahoe, CA
A stateside New Years Eve destination is South Lake Tahoe, California. People flock to this small city wanting to gamble, party, and ski. From December 29-31, 2018, The SnowGlobe Music Festival will be returning to California. This is one of America’s best EDM events in the winter. Most importantly, the electronic music will create an atmosphere perfect for celebrating the new year.
🐉 Chinese New Year
In 2018, the Chinese New Year falls on February 5th. This holiday which Chinese people worldwide observe is also known as the Spring Festival. This celebration is the cause of the largest mass human migration in the world. It was originally a time to honor ancestors, and activities and traditions take place from the first day of the new year, to the Lantern Festival on the 15th day of the year.
The Lantern Festivals have made their way into many countries now, but they originate in China. Also dating back centuries, this celebration began over 2000 years ago, and the lanterns nowadays still symbolize ancient spiritual traditions such as reunions, freedom, and of course socializing. On this night, everyone, no matter their age or gender, goes out into the streets to celebrate. Because the lighting of the lanterns is the most famous part, thousands of flame lit lanterns float into the sky, and it is mesmerizing. This beautiful experience concludes the Chinese New Year’s festivities.
🏡 Home for the New Year
No matter what religion, origin, or beliefs you have, there are winter holidays in December and celebrations for everyone to partake in.
Addtionally, if you want to settle into a home before the parties and celebrations begin, C4 Elite Real Estate Team can help you find your forever home.