It’s a Small World After All: Winter Traditions Across the Globe

artwork by Stephanie Carreto

Elaina Martin, Opinions Editor

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In no time at all it seems, autumn has shifted into winter as we pull on hoodies and put our shorts away until next spring when the weather returns to the classic San Diego climate. With the cold weather comes a slew of holidays ready to be celebrated, and from the Middle East to Europe to America there are celebrations all throughout this month of December.

   Bodhi Day, according to Rochester University, is the recognition of the Buddha’s enlightenment and has a history of being celebrated by Buddhists for over 2,500 years (rochester.edu). The holiday is commemorated by eating a significant meal of rice and milk, which was the first meal offered to the Buddha after his enlightenment. According to the Huffington Post, Buddhists, commonly light candles or turn on special lights and keep them burning for 30 days to symbolize the enlightenment and attaining of peace within the mind (huffpost.com).

   Another holiday celebrated in December is Kwanzaa, which is dedicated to celebrating African community and culture, according to the website of Founder Dr. Maulana Karenga (officialkwanzaawebsite.org). Kwanzaa is celebrated by taking care to make sure one is remembering the beauty of African culture and choosing art and decoration with Kwanzaa in miwnd. According to a website about world holidays, the lighting of seven candles represents the seven principles — self-determination, collective work and responsibility, collective economics, purpose, creativity, unity, and faith. Kwanzaa is a fairly young tradition, as it began in 1966 when Dr. Karenga decided there needed to be a way to bring the African community together after the Los Angeles Watts riots (history.com).

   Chanukah, or Hanukkah, is an eight-day holiday recognized by Jewish people. The holiday is a celebration of the “Miracle of Light,” when oil thought to last only one day actually lasted eight. Over the course of the holiday, Jewish people celebrate by eating fried foods, spinning the dreidel, and lighting candles (metro.co.uk). The eight candles that are lit over the holiday symbolize the number of days that the Temple lantern blazed. The ninth candle, the shamash, is a helper candle used to light the others. People celebrating also exchange gifts over the course of the nine days. Sophomore Shayna Meltzer said, “Hanukkah is 8 nights, so my family and I like to make themes for every night. One night will be game night, another will be movie night — and so on.”

   An Islamic holiday celebrated in December is Milad un Nabi, which commemorates the birth of the Holy Prophet. According to a world calendar website, Muslim people celebrate the Holy Prophet’s birthday with food, bright decorations, and by playing music (dawn.com). The official Islamic Supreme Council website states that the purpose of the holiday is to, yes, celebrate the prophet’s birth, but also to remind people of the happiness and the gift of life (islamicsupremecouncil.com).

   A few Pagan holidays are celebrated in December as well. According to a world event website, Saturalia is an ancient Roman holiday observed by some in examination of the winter solstice (dateandtime.com). The day is marked by offering gifts and sacrifices, and is reminiscent of Roman tradition. Another holiday celebrated by this group is Yule, which is derived from a Norse winter festival (dateandtime.com). Yule celebrates the sun, which might be why so many other holidays celebrate light.

   Christmas is a widely celebrated holiday which has been adopted by people, religious and not, to celebrate family and give gifts. The holiday originated as a Christian tradition, a celebration of the birth of Jesus. Nowadays, people alternately acknowledge the day as a celebration of family (dateandtime.com). Children lie in wait for the morning, trying not to creep downstairs to see if Santa really came, and everyone is excited to eat the meal that comes at the end of the day.

   St. Lucia day is a holiday similar to Christmas celebrated in Scandinavian countries such as Sweden and Finland, and is a unique combination of Pagan and Christian traditions.  People celebrate it by having a young girl dress up as the original Lucia, who was a girl killed for her faith. In each town, there is a procession of the town’s elected Lucia, followed by other children dressed in white who sing carols as they parade down the streets. During the day, carols are sung and a feast is eaten with family (britannica.com).

   While you’re all tied up in prepping for this holiday season, try to remember the importance of family and love. No matter what holidays you celebrate, the core is celebrating your culture and history.

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