Celebrations, Festivals and Traditions From Around the World
21st December, 2017
While Christmas celebrations are now in full swing, with most schools and workplaces already broken up for the festive period, not everyone in the world will be waking up on December 25th to a pile of presents, a full roast dinner and – usually – copious amounts of cheese and wine. In fact, there are many cultures around the world that don’t recognise the festive season as we know it at all but have other, equally spectacular celebrations during the winter. Here at Image Casting, we thought we’d explore some of the alternative traditions that occur all over the world throughout the season, so we can learn a little more about what other cultures will be getting up to this winter.
So, hold onto your mistletoe and put down your glass of mulled wine, as we explore the various traditions and ceremonies from all over the world.
Religious and Cultural celebrations
Bodhi Day – Buddhism
On the 8th of December, Buddhists from all over the world celebrate Bodhi Day, a way of paying respect to Buddha and in the quest of becoming closer to their own personal enlightenment. Given the minimalistic nature of the religion, how they recognise the celebration is slightly different to our interpretations of gift-giving and indulgence, and include meditation, a contemplation of Buddha’s teachings and a meal of rice and milk. That said, Buddhists living in western societies can opt to give appropriate gifts in the spirit of celebration.
Hanukkah – Judaism
In the UK and beyond, Jewish adults and children celebrate the festival of lights, Hanukkah. Festivities last for eight days, and the word itself means ‘re-dedication’ in relation to one of the greatest miracles in Jewish history. This refers to when faithful Jews had only enough oil for a lamp to burn for one night, but it went on to burn for eight. Some families will give each other a small present on each of the eight nights, while others will save one big present for the last day. There is a candle, known as the Hanukiah, which has eight candles, with one burned for each night of the festival.
Kwanzaa – African American/ Pan-African Celebration
Kwanzaa is a relatively recent festival created in 1966 by Dr Maulana Karenga and is celebrated from December 26th until January 1st. It relates to the many African celebrations of the first harvest and comes from the Swahili phrase ‘Matunda Ya Kwanza’ which translates as first fruits. Kwanzaa recognises and celebrates seven key principles of African culture including unity, self-determination, responsibility, cooperation, purpose, creativity and faith. Children receive gifts of books and heritage symbols to remind them of their commitment to African traditions. The final day of Kwanza is reserved for reflection.
Fiesta Grande – Andacollo, Chile
Every December, the usually sleepy mining town of Andacollo in Chile is transformed into a vibrant festival in celebration of the patron saint of miners, Virgen del Rosario. Much like Christmas, the festivities run from 24-26 of December, and thousands flood the streets in the days leading up to the celebration, which involves ceremonial dances, horse-racing, feasts and drinking.
Thaipusam Festival – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
A dynamic and colourful event on the 23rd of January involving a procession to the Batu caves, where participants climb 272 steps to Murugan’s shrine, while others carry pots of milk on their head as a sign of loyalty and love. In extreme cases, people will pierce their skin with two skewers, through the cheek and the tongue, while others carry elaborate frameworks on their shoulders called Kavadis. They are said to be in a spiritual trance, and therefore unable to experience the pain or lose blood.
Ice and Snow Festival – Harbin, China
In north-east China, everybody wraps up warm for one of the largest international ice festivals in the world, drawing an international crowd to take part in an array of cultural, artistic and athletic activities. The festival runs from the 5th of January to the 26th February, giving people lots of time to marvel at the spectacular creations or test their talents at the figure ice-skating competitions!
10 New Year Traditions from Around the World
- In Estonia, the new year’s tradition is entirely focused on food, and rightly so! People eat seven times on the first to ensure abundance in the following year.
- In Siberia, some opt for jumping into frozen lakes holding tree trunks – each to their own on that one!
- In Ireland, it is traditional to throw bread at the walls to rid them of evil spirits.
- Those from Denmark climb on top of a chair and jump into the new year for good luck.
- The French keep it simple and classy, opting for a stack of pancakes every new year’s Day!
- In Romania, they throw spare coins into the river for luck.
- In a small Peruvian village Takanakuy, villagers fist-fight in order to settle their differences on the last day of December, so that they can start afresh in the new year.
- In Bolivia, coins are baked into sweets, and whoever finds them is said to have good luck in the following year!
- In Romania, farmers try to communicate with their cows. If successful, then it means good luck for the rest of the year.
- A little closer to home in Scotland, the first person to cross the threshold of a house in the new year should carry a gift for good luck.
We hope you have enjoyed this little insight into the different celebrations that can occur all over the world during this time of year. Some of them involve gifting and others don’t, but all of them hold traditional values and beliefs that are important to various communities. In the spirit of alternative traditions, why not treat someone you love to one of our beautiful baby keepsakes this December? Start your own traditions with a little help from Image Casting, and make sure you start 2018 with an act of kindness.