Holiday Celebrations Around the World

Worldwide holidays including Kwanzaa, Día de los Reyes Magos, and Ōmisoka!

One of the most celebrated December holidays in the United States and the world is Christmas. Christmas this year will fall on Friday, December 25. The holiday is celebrated worldwide and although the holiday celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, many celebrate Christmas secularly. Christmas trees, angels, ornaments, wrapped presents, and colorful lights are a sight to be seen around Christmas time.

Hanukkah is an eight-day Jewish holiday that celebrates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. For eight nights and days, the lighting of the Menorah, which consists of 9 candles in a holder takes place. In 2020, Hanukkah starts the evening of December 10 and ends on December 18.

Kwanzaa is a week-long holiday to honor African heritage in African-American culture. During Kwanzaa, colorful household decorations with art, African cloth, and a candle-lighting ceremony with a kinara are observed. It is celebrated from December 26 through January 1.

Las Posadas originates in Spain, but the nine-day celebration that is now primarily celebrated in Mexico, Guatemala, and parts of the Southwestern United States. During the religious celebration, a procession moves from house to house with a candle, stopping at each home to pray. The procession ends with a celebration that continues with caroling, feasting, and pinata breaking!


Diwali also referred to as the “festival of lights”, celebrates both the attainment of nirvana by as well as the Death Anniversary of a Hindu religious leader. It is celebrated by the lighting of a Diya, an oil lamp made from clay. This five-day Hindu festival is an official holiday in countries including India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Myanmar.

Día de Los Reyes Magos or Three Kings Day takes place in early January. This holiday is the day the three wise men first saw baby Jesus and brought him gifts. On this day in Spain and much of Latin America, children get presents. A “king’s cake” is enjoyed and bakers hide a coin, jewel, or little toy inside it. Whoever gets the treat inside, is told to host the next party!

The Chinese New Year celebrates the beginning of a new year in the Chinese calendar. Depending on the year, the holiday takes place between January 21 and February 20. It is a time for honoring ancestors, gathering with family and friends, feasting, and receiving gifts.

Ōmisoka in Japan is considered an important day in tradition. Families gather on Ōmisoka on the last day of the year to have a bowl of Toshi Koshi-soba or Toshi Koshi-udon, a tradition where families eat long noodles to “cross over” to the New Year.

Hylton Center for International Studies and Languages students are expected to see a presentation on New Year’s traditions in various countries at the December CISL general meeting. Take some time over winter break to learn about other celebrations and cultures around the world! Happy holidays bulldogs!