Celebrating All Holidays

Author: Sarah Vlazny, Guest Blogger

Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s are popular holidays and traditions in the United States, but what other holidays are celebrated around the world during the winter months of November, December, and January? This article takes a broader look at holidays celebrated around the globe within different cultures and religions.

Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead)

When: November 1, 2021 (generally celebrated October 31 through November 2)

What: Day of the Dead is a Mexican holiday in which families celebrate the return of the souls of their loved ones.[1] It is believed to be a time in which the spirits of children can rejoin their relatives for 24 hours on October 31, and the spirits of adults can do the same on November 2.[2] These spirits are treated as honored guests in the celebration of the holiday, and families welcome them with drinks, dancing, and music. [3] Families also make the deceased’s favorite foods and build them ofrendas, or offerings, in their homes.[4]

Diwali

When: November 4, 2021 (typically late October or November)

What: Diwali is a five-day religious festival celebrated in Hinduism, Jainism, and Sikhism.[5] The festival’s name is derived from the Sanskrit word Deepavali, meaning “row of clay lamps.” [6] One of the most popular holidays in India, for Hindus it represents the victory of light over darkness and is celebrated with the lighting of small earthen oil lamps.[7] Other traditions include buying new furniture, exchanging gifts with loved ones, and lighting fireworks. [8]

Hanukkah

When: Sunday, November 28 through Monday, December 6, 2021 (or the 25th of Kislev on the Hebrew calendar, typically November or December)

What: Hanukkah (or Chanukah) is an eight-day Jewish holiday often called the Festival of Lights.[9] There are several interpretations of the Hanukkah tale, but perhaps the most popular is the Hannukah “miracle.” According to the Talmud, a Jewish text, Judah Maccabee and other Jews who rededicated the Second Temple had only enough oil to light the menorah’s candles for a single day, and yet the flamed continued burning for eight days. [10] This miracle is typically celebrated with lighting menorahs, spinning dreidels, and eating traditional foods such as latkes, or potato pancakes.[11]

Bodhi Day

When: 8th day of the 12th lunar month of the Chinese calendar, or December 8 in Japan

What: For Buddhists, Bodhi marks the day that Siddhartha Gautama reached enlightenment under the bodhi tree and became the Buddha.[12] It is often celebrated in a calm and quiet manner, with time spent thinking about the teachings of the Buddha.[13]

Boxing Day

When: December 26

What: BoxingDayis a public bank holiday in the UK and is celebrated in several other European countries, as well as Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.[14] Dating back to the middle ages, it is the day that servants were traditionally given off to celebrate Christmas with their families.[15] Servants were traditionally given a Christmas box containing money, a gift, and sometimes leftover food.[16] It is also traditionally a day in which the alms box, or collection box in a church, is opened and the contents given to the poor. [17] Now, Boxing Day is often celebrated in the UK by watching a football match and eating leftovers, such as the famous turkey sandwich.[18]

Kwanzaa

When: December 26 through January 1

What: Kwanzaa was created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, professor and chairman of Black Studies at California State University.[19] Primarily an African American holiday, it has since come to be celebrated in other areas of the world where there are descendants of Africans, such as the Caribbean.[20] Dr. Karenga founded the holiday after the Watts riots in Los Angeles, combining several elements of different African harvest celebrations.[21] The name “Kwanzaa” comes from the Swahili phrase “matunda ya kwanza,” meaning “first fruits.”[22] The holiday is meant to celebrate the harvests of a community or village and lasts for seven nights. [23] Each of those seven nights is represented by a candle on the kinara.[24]Each candle on the kinara represents one of the seven principles of Kwanzaa: unity (umoja), self-determination (kujichagulia), collective responsibility (ujima), cooperative economics (ujamaa), purpose (nia), creativity (kuumba), and faith (imani). [25]

Thaipusam

When: During the full moon in the Tamil month of Thai (January/February), January 18, 2022

What: Celebrated in India, Malaysia, Singapore, and beyond, this Hindu festival is a time to ask Lord Murugan (also known as Lord Subramanian) for good health and peace in the new year.[26] Thaipusam was the day Lord Murugan appeared to his devotees mounted on a peacock.[27] The holiday celebrates the god’s triumph over evil and is an opportunity for devotees of Lord Murugan, who is known as the universal dispenser of favors, to fulfil their vows or penance to the deity. [28] This penance can range from carrying the kavadi, which is a wooden pole surmounted by a wooden arch and decorated with peacock feathers, to piercing the face and body with silver pins. [29]

Lunar New Year

When: February 12, 2021 (On the first day of the first month of the Lunar calendar, between January 21 and February 20)

What: Celebrated in China, South Korea, Vietnam, and other Asian countries, the Lunar New Year is a 15-day holiday that historically represents a time of rest in between the harvest and new planting season in agrarian ancient China.[30] There are many traditions associated with the Lunar New Year, including gathering with one’s family for a large dinner on New Year’s eve and sweeping out the home to drive out any bad luck or misfortune. [31]  Families often exchange red envelopes with small amounts of money on New Year’s day. Dancing and fireworks are often part of the celebration as well.[32]


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