What other winter holidays do other cultures celebrate?

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Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Audrey Donaldson, Reporter

Winter is widely regarded as the holiday season because Christmas and Thanksgiving fall during the frosty season. What many people don’t know is that there are six, or even more holidays celebrated during the winter season. These holidays differ around the world and between different religions. Many of these holidays are well known, but some are not as popular. 

One of the most celebrated holidays in the world is Christmas. Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ from his mother Mary and comes from Christian origins. Christmas has been adapted by the media and advertising to now be a holiday less about Christaniatiy, and more about gifts. Christmas comes with many traditions such as decorating christmas trees, baking Christmas cookies, getting and giving gifts, and the visitation of Santa Claus. Many countries around the world have the tradition of Santa Claus, but under a different name such as Papa Noel in Spain, La Befana in Italy, and Kris Kringle in England. Christmas day is on December 25th. 

Before the Christmas season starts, Hanukkah is celebrated. Hanukkah is an eight day holiday and this year, will fall on December 8th and go through December 10th. Hanukkah differs from Christmas because it commemorates rededication of the second temple in Jerusalem during the Maccabean Revolt and the miracle of the crude oil. Every night of Hanukkah, Jewish people light one candle on the Hanukkah Menorah; a lamp that has eight candles. Many traditions associated with Hanukkah are dreidels which are four sided spinning tops, eating oil based food, and gifts. Hanukkah is celebrated mostly in America, Israel, Hungary, and Germany.

Another holiday celebrated in the United States is Kwanzaa. This winter holiday is celebrated from December 26th through January 1st and is a celebration of African American culture. This holiday was created in 1966 as a response to the commercialism of Christmas in America. Kwanzaa is centered around seven principles: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith.

Like Hanukkah, during Kwanzaa a candle on the kinara is lit, and each candle signifies one of the seven principles. Some traditions of Kwanzaa are singing and dancing, storytelling, poetry reading, African drumming, gifts, and feasting.

St. Nicholas day is also celebrated in the United States and countries like Greece, Turkey and Russia. This holiday falls on December 6th and is from Catholic origins. On St. Nicholas Day young children put their shoes outside in hopes of waking up to treats like golden coins in their shoes. To celebrate, many people will attend mass or another service of worship.

In a similar way, some South American countries put their shoes out for Three Kings Day in hopes of receiving gifts. Some people even put out grass and water for the camels, like putting out cookies and carrots for Santa and his reindeer on Christmas. Three Kings Day, or the Epiphany is a holiday commemorating the Magi arriving to see Jesus after he was born. This holiday is on January 6th, and some people classify it as the end of the Christmas season. Customs for this holiday include singing, putting chalk on the doorframes, getting your house blessed, attending church services, and eating Three Kings cake. This holiday is mostly celebrated in South American countries, America, and some European countries.

The winter solstice falls between all these winter holidays and with that comes many pagan holidays and celebrations.