Winter festivals around the World

Posted on Dec 11, 2019 Tags: , ,

Christmas is far from the only celebration to happen during the winter. Cultures all over the world have developed their own ways of adding a little brightness to a dark time of the year. Here are just some of them:


When is it? 26th December – 1st January.

What’s it all about? Kwanzaa originated in the USA during the 1960s. It’s a celebration of African American culture and heritage, with practices inspired by Umkhosi Wakweshama – a Zulu harvest festival. Families celebrating Kwanzaa decorate their homes with colourful fabrics and African art. They may wear traditional African forms of dress, play African music, and discuss pan-African issues and culture. The festival culminates in Karamu Ya Imani – gift-giving. Many families celebrate Kwanzaa alongside Christmas and New Year, but some use it as an alternative.


When is it? Hanukkah starts on the 25th day of Kislev in the Hebrew calendar. In the western Gregorian calendar, this can be any time between late November and late December.

What’s it all about? Hanukkah is a Jewish festival which celebrates the re-dedication of the second Temple in the 2nd century BCE. Which sounds quite dry, but it’s actually a fun festival. Also known as the ‘Festival of Lights’, it involves lighting a branch of a menorah (eight-branched candelabrum) each day, and celebrating with food, singing, and games. Traditionally, Hanukkah was a pretty minor religious festival, but the fact that it occurs so close to Christmas led to Jewish people in Europe and the Americas often celebrating it with as much excitement and fervour as their gentile neighbours did Christmas.


When it is? During the Hindu month of Kartika, which tends to fall between the Gregorian October and November.

What’s it all about? Diwali is a festival of lights, during which Hindus celebrate the victory of light over darkness, of good over evil, and of knowledge over ignorance. Some Hindus take Diwali as a celebration of the day when (according to Hindu myth) the demon king Ravana’s army was defeated by the forces of good. Others simply celebrate it as a time of light and love. Diwali traditions include cleaning homes and filling them with bright colours, setting candles in windows to dispel the darkness of winter, letting off fireworks, and filling temples with lamps in a glorious show of light. Diwali in India is a very beautiful sight!

Bodhi Day

When is it? December, usually, but it depends on the Chinese lunar calendar. The Japanese celebrate it on the 8th December.

What’s it all about? There are many Buddhist festivals to mark the day the Buddha achieved enlightenment, and Bodhi Day is one of them. Buddhists commemorate the day in a number of ways, including performing kind acts towards others, mediation, or a traditional meal.

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