Holidays from Around the World
Discover some of the many different holidays celebrated around the world from November through January.
The holiday season from November through January contains so many more festivals and celebrations than just Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years. Maybe you or one of your friends celebrates one of the holidays listed below. It’s always fun to share family and cultural traditions with friends!
People who live in Wales, which is part of Great Britain, celebrate Calan Gaeaf on November 1, the first day of winter in the old Celtic calendar. The festivities of the night are similar to Halloween. Activities include bobbing for apples, wearing masks, eating special foods and treats, and telling ghost stories around bonfires.
People of Jewish heritage celebrate Hanukkah, also known as the Jewish Festival of Lights, for eight days in either November or December. The dates of Hanukkah are based on the Hebrew calendar. The first night of Hanukkah includes a big family dinner with foods like latkes (potato pancakes), beef brisket, and jelly donuts. After dinner, the family lights menorah candles, one new candle each night until all eight are lit. Songs are sung, children open gifts, and a dreidel top is spun to win chocolate coins, called gelt.
The Winter Solstice occurs on December 21 this year for people living in the northern hemisphere of the earth. This day has the shortest amount of daylight hours. For thousands of years across many cultures, people have held festivals on this day, usually by lighting bonfires and candles to welcome and encourage the warmth and daylight of spring to return in a few months’ time.
Lohri is a Punjabi folk festival celebrated by Sikhs and Hindus from the Punjab region of India. This year, Lohri starts on January 13. For Indian farmers, it marks the end of winter season and people celebrate the upcoming return of longer hours of sunlight. This festival involves large bonfires, bright costumes, traditional folk songs, dancing, and, of course, lots of food!
St. Lucia Day
St. Lucia Day is celebrated primarily in Scandinavia (Denmark, Norway, and Sweden). Girls dress up in long white gowns with red sashes, and wear a wreath of burning candles on their heads. The day honors a saint from the third century named Lucia. On December 13, the girls, dressed like St. Lucia, wake up their families by singing songs and bringing them coffee, cookies, and twisted saffron buns called “Lucia cats.”
Kwanzaa is based on ancient African harvest festivals and is celebrated from December 26 to January 1 in countries outside of Africa. Family, African heritage and cultures, thankfulness, and working together are important parts of the celebration. African Americans dress in special clothes during Kwanzaa, decorate homes with fruits and vegetables, and light a candle holder called a kinara. At the end of Kwanzaa, there is a big feast and people exchange gifts.