Holidays around the world

Molly Cahill

Although Christmas and Hanukkah are two of the most well known holidays celebrated in America, they are not the only ones. Countries from all over the world have their own days of celebration with just as much cultural significance.

St. Lucia’s Day: Dec. 13

Although this isn’t an official holiday, it ranks as one of the most important holidays on the Swedish calendar. The day is a feast day dedicated to St. Lucia, patron saint of the blind.

Las Posadas: Dec. 16 to Dec. 24

This Mexican tradition is a nine-day celebration meant to symbolize the trials of the Christian Mary and Joseph went through in the days leading up to the birth of Jesus. It lasts nine days to symbolize the nine months Mary was pregnant with Jesus. Typically, a party is held each night in a neighborhood home.

Kwanzaa: Dec. 26 to Jan. 1

This is a weeklong celebration of universal African heritage and culture consisting of seven days of celebration and culminating in a day of feasting and gift giving. It was started with the intention of giving African-Americans an alternative to the holidays celebrated by the dominant American culture and to strengthen the worldwide African community.

Hanukkah: Dec. 1, sunset to Dec. 9, sunset

Also known as the festival of lights, is an eight-day festival observed with the lighting of the menorah. Each night of the festival one candle of the nine-branched candelabrum is lit and presents are exchanged. It is meant to commemorate the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem during the Maccabean Revolt of 2nd century BCE. When the temple was liberated, enough oil was left to light a menorah for one day. It miraculously lasted eight days, which was long enough for new oil to be made.

Vitaliy Styrt, a senior criminal justice major, said what he likes most about Hanukkah is “getting the present, being with my family and lighting the menorah.” When asked about what the holiday is, Styrt said, “you have a menorah, each of the eight days you light the center candle and then one candle, and then on the second day you light two candles and then you keep on going up and up and up until you get to eight. And basically that represents back in the day when they were lighting the menorah they didn’t have enough oil to light all eight, but it lasted for all eight days.”

Christmas: Dec. 25

This holiday is a religious holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, the central figure in Christianity. It also celebrates the fictitious figure, Santa Claus, who delivers presents via chimney on the night before Christmas.

Chrystelle Yuma, a junior biology pre-med major from the Republic of Congo, said that coming from a Christian background makes Christmas an especially important holiday for her.

“It means it’s the birth of Jesus Christ, the savior and things like that so it’s really important in my family and my community,” she said.

Nathalie Biwole, an international student from the Republic of Cameroon, is a second-year translation master student.

“I’m 30 years old, so it’s no longer about the gifts and stuff,” she said. But, the holiday still holds a lot of importance.

“Because I grew up in an environment where we made a big deal out of Christmas, it’s a time that I cherish a lot,” Yuma said. “You know it’s a family time, it’s special, definitely.”

Cameroon is a former French colony, so there is a lot of western influence and Christmas is an important holiday.

Yuma said that, “people do what they can, it’s a big deal. People who can afford it offer gifts to other people. A lot of families are very, very, like to have the Christmas tree in the home and yeah well it’s pretty much like here, it’s a big time in the year. A lot of people want to get married around that time because we don’t have the winter there so the weather doesn’t really play a major role. You know, all kinds of celebrations happen around that time.“

Mid-Autumn Festival: Sept. 22

Phoebe Wu, a teaching English as a second language graduate student, said that in China, the Mid-Autumn Festival is one of the most important of the festivals celebrated. “It’s like in the whole year and at that time the moon is the roundest and the biggest, brightest,” Wu said. “So we are kind of like, it’s like a family reunion day, kind of like Thanksgiving Day, so all of the family members try to get together and have dinner together. We have a special moon cake for that day, and the moon cake it looks like the moon… The moon changes shape and when it goes round it symbolizes reunion, so that’s how it comes.”

Chinese New Year Festival

Wu also explained that the celebration of the new year is another very important festival.

“We hang out with friends and family together. Usually you stay with family and go to see your relatives after New Year’s Eve. So New Year’s Eve you stay with the family and have dinner together and we usually stay up all night to wait for the new day. So it means you will have a good year later… And after that day, the first day we go to see our relatives… Go to see our family, friends and wish them a good year later. And also kids will get red bags, we call them red bags. It’s like the older generation puts money in the red envelope and give them to kids, wish them a happy year and grow up well. So it’s a big time for kids, we will get a lot of money usually, enough for your whole year’s spending,” she said.


Also known as the festival of lights, Diwali is a Hindu tradition. It is a five-day festival celebrated with ceremonies, sweets and fireworks.


This Scottish New Year celebration is celebrated with torch light processions, fireball swinging and lighting of New Year fires. The celebration begins on the last day of the year and continues until the following day.


Contact Molly Cahill at [email protected].