Holidays around the World
By David Tobener
With the holiday season just around the corner, it’s a great time to learn about some of the holidays celebrated by people around the world, especially those in markets that we at DeLeon Realty are proud to serve.
While Christmas and Hanukkah are the prevalent winter holidays in the United States, many other countries have Christmas traditions that are both interesting and unique. We’ll take a look at some of those traditions here, as well as learn about the biggest holidays celebrated by the Chinese population, as well as the Indian population, in the U.S. and abroad.
Christmas Traditions around the World
Gävle Goat, Sweden: Since 1966, a nearly 43-foot Yule Goat (a traditional symbol of Christmas in Scandinavian culture) has been built out of straw in the center of Gävle’s Castle Square for the Advent, though a more recent tradition has emerged of people trying to burn the goat down; in fact, it’s been burned down 29 times, most recently in 2016.
Krampus Parade, Austria: In Austria, Santa Claus has an evil twin known as Krampus, a half-man, half-goat demon who punishes bad children instead of rewarding the good ones. The Austrian Alps hold an annual Krampus parade where marchers dress as the demonic entity and parade through town, entertaining (and frightening!) parade watchers all night long.
KFC Christmas, Japan: While Christmas isn’t widely celebrated in Japan, Kentucky Fried Chicken has managed to make themselves synonymous with the holiday there. It’s become a tradition in Japan to enjoy a meal from KFC on Christmas, and KFC even comes out with a special Christmas menu every year.
Hiding Brooms, Norway: Centuries ago, people in Norway believed that witches and evil spirits came out on Christmas Eve looking for brooms to ride. To this day, some in Norway still hide their brooms in the safest place in the house on Christmas Eve in order for them not to be stolen.
Hanukkah in the United States Capital
Since 1979, a nearly 30-foot tall Menorah is raised on the White House grounds to celebrate the 8 days and nights of Hanukkah. The ceremony in Washington, D.C. includes speeches, music, activities, and, of course, the lighting of the Menorah. The lighting of the first candle at the White House takes place at 4 p.m., and an additional candle is lit each successive night.
Chinese New Year
Beginning on January 25, 2020, Chinese New Year is China’s biggest celebration, and is celebrated by 20% of the world’s population. Also known as the Spring Festival, the holiday marks the end of the coldest days of the year while welcoming spring and all that comes with it, from plantings and harvests, to new beginnings and fresh starts.
Celebrations last all through the night, and include lighting off fireworks to ward off monsters and bad luck. In fact, the most fireworks in the world are set off on Chinese New Year. The color red is also important during Chinese New Year, since red is considered to bring good luck and good fortune in Chinese tradition.
Families celebrate together over dinner on New Year’s Eve, and enjoy the Chinese New Year Gala, a variety show broadcast by Chinese Central Television. One of the premier TV events in China, the Gala begins at 8 p.m. and usually ends sometime after midnight.
Chinese New Year ends with the Lantern Festival, held on the first full moon of the lunar year. The Lantern Festival symbolizes reunions, and is also a time to socialize. Everyone, regardless of age or gender, takes to the streets to celebrate on this day.
Diwali is India’s biggest and most important holiday of the year. Known as the Festival of Lights, it celebrates new beginnings and the victory of good over evil and light over darkness.
Diwali is celebrated in the month of Kartik (October-November) on the darkest moonless night or Amavasya. Families and friends get together and light traditional earthen lamps filled with oil called Diyas (candles) and decorate with colorful Rangoli, an arrangement of flowers and colored powder, at the entrance of their homes. Prayers are offered to get blessings from Goddess Lakshmi seeking wealth and prosperity for the whole year. People firmly believe that Goddess Lakshmi will visit their homes and shower them with blessings of good fortune and prosperity.
During Diwali, families and friends share sweets and gifts and get together for rituals and prayers. People enjoy an assortment of sweets like mithai, lots of savory snacks, and come together for feasts. It is a tradition to clean up the homes, and for new clothes to be worn, during the festival.
Diwali is a 5-day festival, with the actual Diwali celebrated on the third day. As the biggest festival in India, Diwali unifies people across the country, with everyone coming together to celebrate. It’s also celebrated with warmth and festivities throughout the world.