Celebrating Holidays Worldwide


Tomertu/Istock via Getty Images

A menorah, dreidels, and jelly donuts called sufganiyot.

Katie Arnoult, Editor

There is not only one holiday that comes during the winter season. Many festivities occur, each with their own special traditions. Now, ’tis the season to observe those holidays and customs from around the world. 

A Jewish holiday that lasts for eight days each winter, Hanukkah “commemorates the rededication during the second century B.C. of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, where according to legend Jews had risen up against their Greek-Syrian oppressors in the Maccabean Revolt,” according to History.com. This year, Hanukkah was celebrated from Nov. 28 to Dec. 6. The holiday is also called “Chanukah,” and it means “dedication.” 

An iconic symbol of Hanukkah, a menorah is a Jewish candelabra that holds nine candles. Each candle represents a day of Hanukkah, with the ninth being the Shamash or helper candle. One candle is lit per night by families all across the world.

Another well-known symbol of Hanukkah is the dreidel, a spinning top used to play a dreidel game on Hanukkah. On each side of the dreidel is a Hebrew letter, which stands for the phrase Nes gadol haya sham,” which translates to “A great miracle occurred there.” 

Diwali (also known as Dipawali) is a holiday widely celebrated in India as a Hindu festival, but also in other cultures as well. It is celebrated by Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, and Sikhs. According to Trafalgar, a website about world travel, in Hinduism, Diwali celebrates the Hindu mythology story of how “Lord Krishna defeated the demon Narakasura and freed the people of his kingdom.” 

This year, Diwali started on November 4. Celebrated over five days, each day has different activities with different meanings. On day one, people clean and tidy their homes. On day two, people decorate their homes with traditional decorations such as clay lamps called diyas and bright and intricate design patterns using colored sand. During day three, the main day of Diwali, families gather to pray to the Goddess Lakshmi, eat elaborate feasts, and do firework shows. On day four, friends and relatives gather together. Finally, on day five, brothers visit their married sisters and hold a great meal with delicious food. 

The phrases “Silent night”, “Let it snow”, and “Deck the halls” bring to mind the cheerful holiday of Christmas, originally a Christian holiday to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Though Christmas day is on Dec. 25, many historians agree that December what not when Jesus was born. Popular Christmas traditions include adorning the house with festive decorations, putting up Christmas trees, attending church or mass, baking holiday goods and a plethora of other fun activities.

Another tradition is having family and friends gather for a Christmas dinner on the night of Dec. 25. Food and drink during the celebratory feast are similar to Thanksgiving; ham, turkey, potatoes, vegetables, cranberry sauce, gravy. Christmas dinners can have a wide variety of appetizers, entrees, and desserts.

Christmas trees are a commonly-known part of Christmas, and they just keep on getting more grand and beautiful each year. However, they were not as appreciated at first. The Christmas tree came from Germany and was brought to the United States during the 1830s by German settlers. Most Americans did not accept Christmas trees at first, seeing them as pagan symbols and foreign traditions, and they were highly disregarded. Turning the tables, in 1846 Queen Victoria of England and her family were sketched surrounding a Christmas tree, which helped the Christmas tree become more popular. 

Every holiday during the winter season, and during all times of the year, is unique and special to those who celebrate it. Though not everyone may know about these three winter holidays, Hanukkah, Diwali and Christmas, it is important to respect and acknowledge them all.