Everyone knows about Santa Claus and the overall commercialization of Christmas as a time of gift giving with family and friends, but, in the month of December, many different religions and cultures celebrate something besides Christmas. Here is a guide to the holidays around the world in December 2018.
This year from December 2 to December 10 is Hanukkah, a Jewish festival commemorating the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. During the eight-day celebration, the menorah, or a special candle holder, is lit each day. They do it to remember an ancient miracle in which one day’s worth of oil burned for eight days in their temple. Many Jews also eat special potato pancakes called latkes, sing songs, and spin a top called a Dreidel to win chocolate coins, nuts, or raisins.
St. Lucia Day
St. Lucia is festival of lights in Sweden, Norway, and the Swedish-speaking areas of Finland on December 13 in honor of Saint Lucia, also known as St. Lucy. She was one of the earliest Christian martyrs. St. Lucia was killed by the Romans in 304 CE, because of her religious beliefs. In order to honor this third-century saint, many girls dress up as “Lucia brides” in long white gowns with red sashes, and a wreath of burning candles on their heads. They wake up their families by singing songs and bringing them coffee and twisted saffron buns called “Lucia cats.” This holiday is as big as Christmas is in the United States and is treated as such.
Although Christmas is popular in the United States, it is the number one most celebrated holiday in the world. More than 160 countries celebrate the holiday, according to Library Spot. A few countries refer to the holiday as Family Day, including Angola and Uruguay. But not everyone celebrates it the same way we do. Here are some interesting Christmas traditions from around the world.
In the Czech Republic, on Christmas Eve, it’s tradition for Czech women to put their backs to the house door and throw a shoe over their shoulders. If the shoe lands with the heel towards the door, their love life will be fruitless in the coming year, but if the front of the show lands towards the door, they will find love in the new year.
In Australia, it’s currently summer, so their Christmas tradition is to have barbecues and swap out the reindeer for six kangaroos, or white boomers, as they’re called in the songs and stories.
In some parts of Norway, it is a tradition to have the women to hide all brooms in the house and have the men fire their guns into the night on Christmas Eve. This is due to the ancient belief that Christmas is a prime time for witches and evil spirits to emerge.
Celebrated from December 26 to January 1, Kwanzaa, which means “First Fruits,” is based on ancient African harvest festivals and celebrates seven ideals, celebrated each day of the week of Kwanzaa including the following: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. During this spiritual holiday, millions of African Americans dress in special clothes, decorate their homes with fruits and vegetables, and light a candle holder called a kinara.
On December 31, in Ecuador, families dress a straw man in old clothes to represent politicians, pop culture figures, and other icons of the year to torch in the streets. This tradition of burning the old year, or the año viejo, as stated in Ecuador. The family members make a will for the straw man that lists all of their faults. At midnight, the nation burn their straw men in hopes that their faults will disappear with him. Fireworks sometimes occur during or after the burnings.
What were some of your favorite holidays from around the world?