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How Different Cultures Celebrate the Holidays in December

It’s the holiday season! All around the world, various cultures gather to celebrate the holidays with their traditions. It is essential to be aware of and learn more about other important days and festivals celebrated around us! Knowing about these traditions can help us learn more about a culture and better connect with those around us who celebrate! Here are a few holidays that are being observed by other cultures throughout December!

Hanukkah (December 10-18, 2020)

Hanukkah, otherwise known as “The Festival of Lights,” is a Jewish holiday celebrated through the course of 8 days, commemorating the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem with its rich history. Each night, an additional candle is lit and added to the menorah. Children play with dreidels, and everyone enjoys traditional fried foods such as latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jam-filled donuts).

Las Posadas (December 16, 2020 - December 24, 2020)

Las Posadas is a religious festival celebrated by Mexican culture to commemorate Joseph and Mary’s journey seeking refuge to give birth to Jesus. Following mass, there are celebrations with food, such as champurrado (sweet Mexican beverage) and pan dulce (sweet bread).

Winter Solstice (December 21, 2020)

Winter Solstice is celebrated by multiple cultures to welcome the change of season and is the shortest day of the year. This holiday is celebrated in Scandinavia, Persia/Iran, ancient Rome, China, Poland, Guatemala and by the Kalasha peoples in Pakistan. Winter Solstice is celebrated with many feasts and respective cultural traditions to celebrate the arrival of winter.

Christmas (December 25, 2020)

Christmas is one of the most widely celebrated holidays across the world. Many celebrate with decorated Christmas trees, gift-giving, and leaving food out for Santa. In Australia, where Christmas is celebrated during the summertime, many celebrate with beach and camping trips.  

Boxing Day (December 26, 2020)

Boxing Day is when alms boxes, donation boxes for the impoverished, are distributed and opened up. Traditionally, Boxing Day was also a day for servants to have a day off and celebrate with family. Boxing Day is a day to spend time with family and friends. This holiday is celebrated in the United Kingdom and a few other countries formerly part of the British Empire.

Kwanzaa (December 26, 2020 - January 1, 2021)

Kwanzaa is a seven-day celebration of African heritage. Each night, the kinara is lit, similar to that of the menorah for Hanukkah. Each day has a specific principle: unity (Umoja), self-determination (Kujichagulia), collective work and responsibility (Ujima), cooperative economics (Ujamaa), purpose (Nia), creativity (Kuumba) and faith (Imani). Gifts are exchanged, and banquets are held, serving many foods from different African countries.

New Year’s Eve//Watch Night/Ōmisoka(December 31, 2020)

Many individuals of all cultures celebrate the final day of the year as they welcome the new year. Watch Night is a night for Christians to look back at their year, make confessions, and pray for the new year. Ōmisoka is considered one of Japan’s most important holidays, as it is the last day before the new year. On that day, it is a tradition to have a bowl of Toshikoshi-soba or Toshikoshi-udon to cross into the new year. Biting through the noodles signifies a “break” from the past year. In the final hours, many may pay visits to shrines and temples.

Make sure to share with us how you’re celebrating the holidays @HerCampusSJSU! Happy holidays!

May Lu

SJSU '21

Hello! My name is May! I love educating myself and others about our communities and how we can better support one another! In the future, I envision myself to be continuously working towards a more equitable, supportive, and empowering future for my community and many marginalized groups as their ally.
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