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Holiday Celebrations Around The World

Written by: Filipa Araújo

Holiday Celebrations Around The World featured image

We take you on a journey to discover the different ways people celebrate the holiday season worldwide.

Have you ever wondered if the customs and traditions in your family are the same in other families? Eating turkey for Christmas may sound odd to people in other countries, and making a snowman during the holidays wouldn’t make sense in some parts of the world. Check out the different traditions of different cultures, from Dia de Los Muertos to Lunar New Year, and all the celebrations in between!

Christmas in Finland

Christmas in Finland is one of the most magical celebrations! A northern Christmas like no other, you can immerse yourself in the full holiday experience. While some people argue that Santa lives at the north pole, Europeans will swear that everyone knows Santa Claus comes from Finland, surrounded by reindeer and soft, fluffy snow as far as the eye can see.  In Finland, you can visit the Santa Claus village in Lapland, where you can experience the true magic of Christmas and some other wonderful things, like the midnight sun and the northern lights.  

On Christmas Eve in a traditional Finnish house, dinner might include pork roast, rice pudding, and lots of mulled wine. After dinner, families pay their respects to deceased loved ones at the cemetery, and some families end their night with a warm sauna to sweat out all of the deliciousness of Christmas dinner.
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Lapland, Finland
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Lapland, Finland

Hanukkah in Israel

Hanukkah, or the festival of lights, is celebrated worldwide by Jewish people. The largest celebration, though, undoubtedly happens in Israel. The word “Hanukkah,” meaning dedication, is the commemoration of the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. The festivities last eight nights to commemorate how long the holy light burned, and a menorah is lit each night of the holiday. One of the most beloved traditions of the holiday is all the delicious fried food, among them the “sufganiyot,” jelly doughnuts sold by the millions. These small balls of dough now come with various fillings and fancy decorations and are a must-have. Lastly, the popular game of Dreidel, still played today, involves a spinning top marked on four sides with a different Hebrew letter. Legend has it that after Greek soldiers banned children from studying Torah, they created this inventive game and studied regardless. When the soldiers came near, they simply pretended they were playing games.
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Sufganiyot, jam-filled donuts
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Kwanzaa in the U.S.

Kwanzaa is an African American celebration of family, culture, and heritage. The holiday was started by Dr. Maulana Korenga in 1966, based on harvest traditions in various parts of Africa, and was meant to celebrate African culture. The holiday lasts for seven days, each with a different focus based on morals, beliefs, or values. The festivities include storytelling, dancing, African drumming, poetry readings, and, of course, scrumptious feasts called Karamu. You can find anything from one-pot stews to jerk chicken to cajun jambalaya on the menu. People are often adorned with traditional African clothing, such as kaftans and head wraps for the women and dashikis and kufi caps for the men. The word “Kwanzaa” is Swahili, one of the most recognized and unifying African languages. “Matunda ya Kwanzaa” is a Swahili phrase meaning “first fruits of the harvest.” The holiday is brought to a close with a day of reflection and recommitment to the Seven Principles and core cultural values.
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Lunar New Year in China

The lunar new year is celebrated by an estimated quarter of the world’s population.  Countries with official public holidays during this period include China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, The Philippines, South and North Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei. The date of the celebration falls on different days each year and is determined by the Chinese lunar calendar. Every new year starts a new animal’s zodiac year. There are 12 zodiac animals, and 2023 moves us out of the year of the tiger and into the year of the rabbit.   

As with most celebrations, certain foods are eaten during this period, many purely for their symbolic meaning. Dumplings represent wealth; the more you eat, the more you make in the new year. Fish is eaten because the word fish in Chinese (鱼 Yú /yoo/) sounds like surplus. Originally, the new year was a time to pray to the harvest gods to ensure that the following year’s harvest was fruitful. Today, however, prayers play a role in remembering and paying respect to your ancestors.
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Lunar new year feast
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Paper craft in Mexico

Day of the Dead in Mexico

The traditions and roots of the Day of the Dead run deep in Mexican history and date back to before the Spanish conquest. Many families honor their deceased relatives by placing “Ofrendas,” small offerings that are placed on their altars. These offerings often consist of the deceased’s personal objects or favorite food, photographs, incense, colorful paper craft, with different colors for different meanings, and salt to purify. They are placed a few days before the 1st and 2nd of November, when the dead are believed to return to visit their relatives and friends. This stems from the idea of the celebration of death in life and is a very festive period. An important symbol of Dia de Los Muertos is the Flor de Cempasúchil, also known as the Mexican Marigold, a bright orange flower that grows during autumn. Traditional meals often include favorites such as tamales and atole; however, anyone with a sweet tooth will look forward to the desserts during this season. The Pan de Muertos is a classic staple, a delicious, sweet bread loaf coated in sugar and decorated in what looks like a pile of bones. cropped troora favicon 1
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Traditional wear
Filipa Araujo
TrooRa Magazine
Written by
Filipa Araújo
Faro, Portugal
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