Multicultural holiday celebrations

December is bursting with holiday observances, traditions, and celebrations such as Ramadan (Muslim), Eid al-Fitr (Muslim), Saint Nicholas Day (Christian), Fiesta of our Lady of Guadalupe (Mexican), St. Lucia Day (Swedish), Hanukkah (Jewish), Christmas Day (Christian), Three Kings Day/Epiphany (Christian), Boxing Day (Australian, Canadian, English, Irish), Kwanzaa (African American), Omisoka (Japanese), and many more.

There are several interesting traditions around the globe:

In Holland, they celebrate on Dec. 5 (St. Nicholas’s Day is on Dec. 6).  Sinterklaas (St. Nicholas) travels to a city near the Netherlands and when he arrives ashore, local church bells ring in celebration. Children leave clogs or shoes out to be filled with presents and treasure hunt games are played with poems and riddles giving the clues to find little presents.

In China, Santa Claus is called Shen Dan Lao Ren. Most Christmas trees are plastic and decorated with paper chains, paper flowers, and paper lanterns. They have a tradition of giving apples on Christmas Eve (Ping An Ye which means quiet or silent night). Some people go caroling while others go to midnight mass services.

Ghana has more than 66 languages spoken languages and the individual cultures all have their own traditions and customs. They celebrate from Dec. 20 to the first week in January. On Christmas Eve, some of the activities that occur are church services with drumming and dancing, nativity plays, fireworks, and parties. On Christmas Day, the churches are full of people dressed in their colorful traditional clothes. After church, they go home to give and receive gifts. Their traditional holiday foods include stew or okra soup, porridge and meats, rice, and a yam paste called fufu.

In Ireland, Christmas is called Nollaig and Santa Claus is known as San Nioclás. They celebrate from Christmas Eve to Jan. 6 (Feast of the Epiphany). Their custom is to put a tall, thick candle on the sill of the largest window after sunset on Christmas Eve. The candle is left to burn all night and represents a welcoming light for Mary and Joseph. On the day after Christmas, St. Stephen’s Day (also called Boxing Day), football matches and horse races are held. The Feast of the Epiphany is also celebrated as Nollaig na mBan or Women’s Christmas. On this day, women get the day off and will meet in each other’s homes to sew and chat while the men do the housework and cooking. Traditional holiday foods are round cakes full of caraway seeds, turkey, and spiced beef.

Hanukkah is observed on the 25th day of Kislev according to the Hebrew calendar, and it lasts for eight days. Hanukkah is also known as the Festival of Lights. Candles are placed on the menorah or hanukkiya (a nine-branch candelabrum). The ninth branch is lit first and used to light a new candle on successive nights. Gifts are exchanged and children play the dreidel game.

No matter which you observe, the holiday season is about joy, happiness, and family. Most people spend extra time with family and friends, creating new friendships at holiday gatherings, caroling, or telling stories to their children. If you’re looking for new ideas, would like to create some new traditions, or are interested in learning more about the traditions of others, we’ve put together a list that covers everything from holiday cultures to recipes.

– Sheila Norman

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