Winter holidays from around the world
Christmas may be one of the most popular — and profitable — holidays of the year, but a variety of groups, both religious and secular, celebrate during the winter months. While some celebrations may be more recognizable, each holiday is special.
Actually a minor Jewish holiday (Passover, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot are more important in the Jewish faith), it’s nevertheless very popular in America. Accounts of how it began vary, but it’s said to celebrate the successful rebellion of the Maccabees, a Jewish rebel army, against the Greek King Antiochus IV Epiphanes.
Each candle on the eight-candle menorah is lit, one a day, over a period of eight days, beginning this year on Dec. 16. Celebrations often include eating fried foods like latkes and giving chocolate coins, or gelt, to children.
Celebrated on Dec. 26 in nearly all English-speaking countries other than the United States, Boxing Day began in England as a day off for blue collar workers, who likely spent the day before working hard so their bosses could celebrate Christmas.
Now, it’s a public holiday in the United Kingdom, Australia, Ireland and other countries, and often serves as a day for shopping (to return all those unwanted Christmas presents) and a full day of football and rugby games.
A secular celebration held among roughly two percent of African-Americans, it was founded in 1966 and begins on December 26, lasting until the new year. Celebrations focus on African heritage, bringing in traditional art, clothing (such as clothes made of kente cloth, a fabric worn by the Akan people of Ghana), fruit and reflection on African history.
Celebrated by Shi’a Muslims on Jan. 2, Mawlid al-Nabi is an annual celebration of the birthday of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. It is a public holiday in some Islamic countries such as Pakistan. The holiday is typically celebrated through singing and prayers, with Pakistan going all-out with processions and a 31-gun salute.
World Religion Day
Founded in 1950, World Religion Day is a Baha’I celebration that will be held Jan. 15. It’s a day meant to celebrate all faiths, showing they aren’t so different. During this holiday, people may hold interfaith conferences, discussions and other events to openly discuss religion and foster unity among people with different beliefs.
Lunar New Year
Also known as Chinese New Year, it’s celebrated in China, Korea, Japan and other Southeastern and Eastern Asian countries. Lunar New Year will fall on Feb. 19, and celebrations last for 15 days.
Lunar New Year has dozens of traditions, depending on the country where it’s observed. Sugary sweets like rice pudding and candied fruits are common, as well as large parades with firecrackers and lion dances. Different celebrations can be held on each day of the New Year, including burning offerings or meeting with family for dinner. The holiday has various superstitions, one being not cleaning the first day.