Christmas is everywhere right now and tends to take up a lot of space – both physically and culturally – between the months of November and December. Still, for some, Christmas isn’t about Christianity’s religious holiday at all and is instead focused almost entirely on Santa Claus, gift giving, and feasts that the “cultural Christianity” has imparted on many instead.
But Christmas isn’t the only holiday celebrated during the winter months, and with the capitalist push filling malls with green and red, it can be hard for these other holidays to find space. There are a litany of other culturally significant or religious holidays, each with their own traditions and festivities, celebrated globally.
Diwali is India’s most important holiday of the year. It is a five-day event that takes place on the 15th day of the month of Kartik in the Hindu calendar, falling either in October or November. Diwali gets its name from the row (avali) of clay lamps (deepa) that Indians light outside of their homes to symbolize the inner light that protects them from spiritual darkness. This festival is as important to Hindus as Christmas is to Christians.
Kwanzaa is observed from December 26 to January 1 and is a holiday that celebrates African culture. It was first celebrated in 1966. American Maulana Karenga created Kwanzaa in 1966 during the aftermath of the Watts riots as a specifically African-American holiday. Karenga said his goal was to, “give Black [people] an alternative to the existing holiday of Christmas and give Black [people] an opportunity to celebrate themselves and their history, rather than simply imitate the practice of the dominant society.”
Chanukah, which means “dedication” in Hebrew, is an eight-day celebration that begins on the 25th of Kislev of the Hebrew calendar. It typically falls in November or December and is often called the Festival of Lights. The holiday is celebrated with the lighting of the menorah, which symbolizes the miracle that occurred when the Maccabees had only enough oil to burn in the Temple for one day, but it lasted for eight– thus the eight days of Chanukah! The holiday is celebrated with the singing of blessings and the Moaz Tzur, playing games, special food, and in some families the exchange of gifts.
Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year is an important holiday in China. It will fall on Tuesday, February 1, 2022, and marks the beginning of the year of the Tiger. Tied to the Chinese lunar calendar, the holiday was traditionally a time to honour deities as well as ancestors. It is also a time for family feasts. Celebrations culminate with the Lantern Festival on February 15, 2022.
St. Lucia’s Day
In Sweden, St. Lucia’s Day is one of the most cherished celebrations of the year. Beginning on the morning of December 13, the eldest daughter of the family portrays Lucia by dressing in a white gown and donning a crown of lighted candles on her head. Lucia was a young Christian girl who was killed for her faith and martyred in 304. She awakens the family with a tray of freshly baked goods, hot chocolate, and coffee. As she serves the treats, the eldest daughter reminds her family about the reasons why Christmas is celebrated.
Día de los Muertos
Día de los Muertos is a Mexican holiday where families welcome back the souls of their deceased relatives in festivities that include food, drink, and celebration. It is celebrated each year from October 31 to November 2. According to tradition, the gates of heaven are opened at midnight on October 31 and the spirits of children can rejoin their families for 24 hours. The spirits of adults can do the same on November 2.
Las Posadas is celebrated annually from December 16 to December 24. It is a religious festival traditionally held in Mexico and parts of Latin America. Across nine nights of festivities, parties are held at different people’s homes, and all guests begin a procession to mark Mary and Joseph’s search for an inn on the night of Jesus’s birth. The march is typically led by an angel. The parties include prayers, food, music, fireworks, and piñatas.
Bon Om Touk
Bon Om Touk, known as the Water Festival of Cambodia, is the annual celebration of the life-giving waters of the Tonle Sap River. The end of the rainy season brings an abundance of fish and mineral-rich soil to the area surrounding the river, which for hundreds of years has been the lifeblood of the people of Cambodia. Bon Om Touk is a massive festival that lasts three days and is celebrated all over the country.
Whichever festivities you celebrate, we wish you well this holiday season!Shush Deepavali! Heri za Kwanzaa! Hanukkah Sameach! Gong hei fat choy! Happy St. Lucia Day! ¡Feliz Día de los Muertos! ¡Feliz Navidad! Rikreay Bon Om Touk! Merry Christmas!