Different Holiday Traditions

Written by Gianna Costanza, Anna Cristofano, and Maddie Shea

The holidays are a festive time of year where people of diverse ethnicities and religions gather to celebrate in their own unique ways and traditions.

Celebrated in more than 160 countries, Christmas is a worldwide holiday people commemorate every December 25th. Even though the holiday is only officially one day, Christmas as a season is celebrated throughout the month of December.

Christmas traditions include leaving Santa milk and cookies, writing notes to Santa, and kissing under mistletoe. St. Nicholas was the first Santa and originated in Patara, which is modern day Turkey. Children would leave their shoes filled with hay outside, and St. Nicholas would come by and leave a treat in their shoes. St. Nicholas’ gift giving grew after he died, and his legacy continues with the character, Santa Claus.

Another significant part of the Christmas holidays is family. “There aren’t very many traditions I do, but I am always with my cousins on Christmas,” says Conner King from Texas. Different families embrace unique traditions. One freshman from Woodgrove High School shares, “Christmas morning, my parents hide a pickle ornament, and the kids have to find it, and whoever finds it first, gets to open the first gift.” Sometimes families who don’t celebrate Christmas still enjoy Christmas traditions. “My family loves Christmas traditions. We go around looking at other peoples Christmas lights, watch Hallmark Christmas movies, and attend our friends’ Christmas parties!” says Jessica Gelfound, student at John Champe High School.

Another Christmas Eve tradition originated in Southern Italy. A feast that serves seafood, is called the Seven Fishes. Families eat closer to midnight because it acknowledges the Vigil, which is waiting for Jesus to be born. 

In addition to Christmas, an additional common winter holiday is Hanukkah, the eight day celebration in honor of the miracle of the second temple when there was only enough oil to keep the menorah’s candles burning for one day. However, the flames lasted for eight nights. Hanukkah traditions include lighting the menorah, playing the dreidel game, eating gelt, and giving and receiving gifts.

While Christmas and Hanukkah are well known, there are still many other holidays that are also celebrated around the world. Kwanzaa originated in Los Angeles in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga in an effort to bring together the community after the Watts Riots.These riots were held after Marquette Frye, an African-American motorist who was pulled over for allegedly being under the influence while driving, was killed. Another reason Kwanzaa is celebrated is to acknowledge the arrival of the first harvest home. The holiday takes place from December 26 through January 1st. 

Educational gifts called Zawadi and festivals that include dancing, singing, and storytelling are some of the common events that take place during Kwanzaa. Kwanzaa and Hanukkah hold a similarity in their celebrations in the lighting of the candles. People who celebrate Kwanzaa light a candle called the Kinara for each day of the week that the holiday is celebrated. The candles are used to represent the seven symbols of Kwanzaa called the Mkeka.

Some lesser known holidays celebrated around the world are Boxing Day, which is celebrated in the United Kingdom. It is typically held the day after Christmas in an antiquated tradition of giving back to the servants the day after the holiday. Brenden Roots, who is a Senior this year at Woodgrove, says his family celebrates this unique holiday.

Another popular holiday is Omisoka, which is part of Japanese culture and Buddhism, and celebrates the 12th lunar month. 

Diwali is celebrated on November 14 and is one of the major festivals that is celebrated by Hinus, Jains, and Sikhs. The holiday is usually celebrated for five days during the Hindu lunisolar month.

Las Posadas is another holiday celebrated during the winter season between December 16th through December 24th. Las Posadas is commonly celebrated in Latin America, Mexico, Guatemala, Cuba, Spain, and the United States. Las Posadas is held in the celebration of Mary and Joseph in their journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem.

With the pandemic hanging over everyone’s heads, the winter season and all its festivities are that much more important this year. It is a season where people of many different cultures and backgrounds come together and celebrate with family and friends.

Christmas in chaos; there are many different personalities Christmas morning!
(Photo provided by Connor King)
People from all around the world, from different traditions and religions, can all come together through the holidays.