Winter Holidays Around the Globe


Fionnuala (Finn) Goodale, Local & National News

Here in America, and Sag Harbor especially, many of us celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah. These holidays, although very interesting and festive, are pretty well known and easy to learn about if you wish to. This isn’t the case for some other holiday celebrations and traditions around the world. Due to less people celebrating and not much coverage of other holidays in our Western world, we are not very exposed to other culture’s holiday traditions. So, together, let’s get educated and spread some holiday cheer!

Many other places have traditions similar to us, like Jamaica. Although they may lack the traditional chimney and snow approach to Christmas, many people there still believe in a Santa. “Santa” or a similar figure is a very common belief all around the world. He has different names in nearly every country but can be spotted in Brazil, Russia, Hungary, Japan, France, and Turkey. In fact, Christmas is celebrated in about 160 countries.

Hanukkah is another common winter holiday, which is a Jewish celebration also called the Festival of Lights. People who are celebrating often light a menorah, which is a nine branched candelabra, and a candle is lit each night of Hanukkah. Other celebrations include playing the dreidel game, exchanging gifts, or eating traditional foods such as latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (fried jelly-filled donuts).

Another winter holiday is Kwanzaa. Kwanzaa is on December 26 through January 1 and it celebrates African-American unity. People who celebrate this holiday will generally gather with family and friends to exchange gifts and light candles. These candles are red, green and black, and they symbolize core aspects of African-American family life: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith.

The Chinese New Year is a celebration of the beginning of a new year on the traditional Chinese calendar. This calendar isn’t the same as ours, so instead of celebrating New Year’s on the night of December 31st and day of January 1st, they’ll celebrate it this year on February 12. The festival lasts 15 days and is filled with all kinds of exciting activities and events. People traditionally decorate their houses and many public areas. These decorations are usually red and gold, and a common symbol used is the dragon, which is thought to bring good luck. On the topic of good luck, there are many superstitions and beliefs surrounding the holiday. People say not to wash your hair on the first day, partly not to wash the luck away, and partly because in older times washing your hair in cold weather brought the threat of sickness. If you’re sick on the first day of the celebrations, that is thought to bring you bad luck for the entire rest of the year. Some other traditions include: don’t sweep the floor, don’t use sharp objects (scissors, knives, etc.), don’t argue and scold, and do not eat meat on the first and fifteenth days of the new year. 

Even for those who do not celebrate these holidays, it can be fun to learn about other cultures and their traditions. Understanding one another and respecting each other’s celebrations is an amazing thing to do, especially when it comes to holidays. We can all be passionate about our own winter holiday that we choose to celebrate, and in doing so it can help let others learn about our culture. All around the world people will be celebrating and enjoying themselves this winter, which will be a happy ending to an overall pretty negative year. Happy Holidays!