Most of us are familiar with wintry traditions—slipping and sliding down icy slopes, burning our tongues with cocoa that’s 30 degrees too hot, and opening gifts from a fat, bearded guy in a red suit who somehow thinks that a skinny chimney is the best way to make a grand entrance. But did you know that there are other important events that happen during this time of year? Listed below are eight different traditions from around the world that all help make the season a little merrier:
1. Chinese New Year: This is the most important Chinese holiday. It falls on different dates each year, usually between January 21 and February 20. The color gold is said to bring wealth and the color red is considered especially lucky. So if you see a giant red and gold dragon parading around, it’s probably your lucky day.
2. Kwanzaa: This holiday commemorates African heritage. During the week-long celebration, participants gather together with family and friends to exchange gifts and to light a series of black, red, and green candles, symbolizing the seven basic values of African-American life (unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith).
3. Hanukkah: This Jewish holiday honors the Maccabees’ victory over King Antiochus, who forbid Jews to practice their religion. For eight nights, Hannukkah is celebrated with prayer, the lighting of the menorah, and food. Children play games, sing songs, and exchange gifts.
4. New Year’s Day: According the Gregorian calendar, this is the first day of each new year. There are often fireworks at midnight, along with other parties and celebrations. It’s also a great time to make plans and set goals for the upcoming year. So if you haven’t accomplished all the goals you set last year, maybe you can add them to the list for next year.
5. Three Kings Day: At the end of the Twelve Days of Christmas comes a day called the Epiphany, or Three Kings Day. This holiday is celebrated as the day the three wise men first saw baby Jesus and brought him gifts. On this day in Spain, many children get their Christmas presents. In Puerto Rico, children leave a box with hay under their beds before they go to sleep on January 5 so the kings will leave good presents. In France, a delicious king cake is baked. Bakers hide a coin, jewel, or little toy inside the cake.
6. Winter Solstice: This occurs around December 21. It is the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere. People all over the world participate in festivals and celebrations. Many years ago, people celebrated by lighting bonfires and candles to coax the sun back.
7. Eid Al Adha, the Festival of the Sacrifice: Eid Al Adha is celebrated by Muslims on the tenth day of the twelfth month of the lunar calendar (it generally occurs between November and December, depending on the year). On this day, Muslims commemorate the willingness of the prophet Ibrahim (or Abraham) to sacrifice his son for God. Today, Muslims sacrifice an animal—usually a goat or sheep—as a reminder of Ibrahim’s obedience.
8. Santa Lucia Day: When December 13 rolls around in Norway, the whole country kicks off a celebration to commemorate a period when they believed gnomes and trolls ran wild. No work is allowed. After a big feast, all the remaining food is left out for mischievous elves, a gesture that’s said to prevent ill fortune from befalling one’s family.
Do you know of any interesting winter traditions? Please share them with us!