Winter Holidays Around the World

The days are shorter and the nights are longer. The air outside is cold, whether or not there is snow on the ground. It can be a difficult time of the year, but there are some amazing things that happen in winter. Of course, there is the first snowfall, which might be chilly, but it is always beautiful.  After building your snowmen, you can always head inside for soup or hot chocolate to warm you up by the fire. Winter is also fondly known as “the holiday season.”

Here in America, the holiday season typically goes from Thanksgiving to New Years, and incorporates well-known holidays such as Hanukkah and Christmas. But there are many more holidays that are observed during these cooler months, celebrated all around the world.

Boxing Day: You may have seen this on your calendar on December 26th, but do you know what it is? Boxing Day was created as a day off for blue collar workers, who probably worked on Christmas day. It was started in England and is now celebrated in UK, Australia, Ireland, and some other English-speaking countries. Traditionally, people spend the day shopping (and gift-returning), as well as attending or playing football and rugby games.

Kwanzaa: Also on the calendar for December 26th, Kwanzaa is actually a seven day celebration honoring African heritage in African-American culture. The word Kwanzaa comes from a Swahili phrase meaning “first fruits of the harvest” and began in 1965 with the rise of the civil rights and black-nationalist movements. Each of the seven days represents a principle of Kwanzaa: Unity, Self-determination, Collectivity, co-economics, creativity, and faith.

Diwali: This five day festival of lights is celebrated by Hindus in India, Nepal, Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, and many more countries. Rows of candles and oil lamps are lit to help welcome Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth, who comes to give blessings. Rangoli decorations are crafted from colored sand, rice, or flower petals in order to welcome the good and keep out bad spirits. The festival represents light overcoming darkness, and good conquering evil.

Bodhi Day: On December 8th, Buddhists celebrate the enlightenment of the Buddha. This is considered one of the most important holidays for Buddhists, when they remember Siddhartha Gautama’s dedication to his meditation under the Peepal tree. He continued this meditation until he was able to find the cause of suffering and how to liberate a person from it. Once enlightened, he became known as the Buddha.

Lunar New Year: The Lunar New Year is a two week celebration during the first lunar moon, usually in late January or early February. Coinciding with the Chinese New Year and Korean New Year, these celebrations focus on friends and family, honoring ancestors, and exchanging gifts.

Las Posadas: This nine day festival before Christmas is celebrated in Mexico, Guatemala, and some parts of the Southern US. The nine days represent the nine months of Mary’s pregnancy with Jesus. There are many Christian holidays in December, including Sweden’s St. Lucius Day on December 13th, and St. Nicholas day on December 6th in Northern Europe.  

World Religion Day: January 15th is the official day to celebrate religious diversity. Created in 1950, this holiday recognizes all faiths and encourages people to come together to recognize the similarities. Traditions include holding interfaith conferences and discussions to foster unity.

Whatever holiday you plan on celebrating this year, be sure to recognize the religions and cultures of your fellow global citizens. To learn more about different cultures, check out some of our blogs. For all your multicultural language translation needs, check out the Lionbridge onDemand website.