Celebrations for All: 7 Lesser-Known Winter Holidays

Celebrations for All: 7 Lesser-Known Winter Holidays

When it comes to the winter holidays, Christmas seems to have a monopoly.

Winter is a time of celebration for people all around the world. For some, it’s a time of religious celebration; for others, it’s all about the completion of another successful year. Christmas gets a lot of attention because it’s a time of giving and spending time with family, but it’s not the only winter holiday worth celebrating.

In this post, we’re going to take a closer look at 7 lesser-known winter holidays. Most of us view winter as a time to stay inside and hibernate until the better weather comes along, but as you’ll see, it’s actually scattered with religious and non-religious holiday celebrations. Keep reading and you’ll be able to celebrate all the winter holidays around the world.

1. Three Kings Day

Our first winter holiday actually has deep associations with Christmas. Three Kings Day, although it might not be celebrated widely in North America, is a popular holiday that culminates at the end of the 12 days of Christmas. It’s celebrated most predominantly in France, Spain, and Spanish-speaking nations on January 6th.

The idea behind this holiday is that it represents the day that the three wise men first saw baby Jesus and showered him with gifts. It’s no coincidence then that children in Spain typically get their presents on three kings day rather than Christmas.

In France, families, and bakeries alike make “king’s cake” with a small coin, jewel, or toy hidden inside. Children in Puerto Rico will go to bed on January 5th with a box of hay under their beds in hopes that the kings will leave them good presents.

2. Winter Solstice

Winter is a season of progressively shortened days, culminating in the winter solstice, which is a celebration of the shortest day of the year. It happens when the earth is tilted furthest away from the sun, so it occurs at the same exact time for everyone in the northern hemisphere. For that reason, the celebration is either on the 21st or 22nd, depending on where you are.

As the astronomical first day of winter, the winter solstice has always been an important day, going all the way back to ancient times. Ancient Celts, Greeks, Romans, Persians, Chinese, and others all had major celebrations for both solstices.

The Chinese still celebrate the winter solstice today with the Dongzhi Festival, eating dumplings and honoring the yin and yang that solstices represent. In the western world, the solstice is a huge deal for Wicca and Wiccan, which you can learn about at https://wiccaacademy.com/.

3. Kwanzaa

The word “Kwanzaa” means “first fruits” and is based on numerous different African harvest celebrations. It’s an annual celebration of African American heritage that occurs between boxing day and new year’s day in North America.

Those celebrating Kwanzaa spend time with friends and family, keeping a series of black, red, and green candles lit throughout the week-long festivities. Gifts may be exchanged and lots of delicious food eaten. The candles represent some of the values of African American life, namely unity, self-determination, collective responsibility, purpose, creativity, and faith.

4. Hanukkah

Hanukkah has an interesting history dating back to the second century when the Jews revolted against their Greek-Syrian oppressors and rededicated the second temple of Jerusalem. The word itself means “dedication” in Hebrew and it’s one of the oldest religious holidays we have.

The holiday lasts 8 days and begins on the 25th day of the Kislev, in the Hebrew calendar. Though many people associate it with the December holidays, Hanukkah can also fall in late November.

Also referred to as “the festival of lights”, Hanukkah is celebrated with the lighting of the menorah, playing traditional games, eating traditional foods, and exchanging gifts.

5. The Feast of Juul

If you’ve ever lit a Yule log at Christmas time, then you may have indirectly celebrated the feast of Juul. This is yet another solstice-related holiday celebrated in Scandinavian countries to celebrate the heat and life-giving properties of the sun.

A “Juul” log is burnt to honor the god Thor, but the log isn’t allowed to burn completely. Instead, it’s kept as a token of good luck and used as kindling for the next year’s festivities. Food is eaten, games are played, songs are sung, and presumably, in ancient times, lots of ale was consumed.

6. St. Nicholas Day

Many of the origins of our current Christmas traditions can be found in holidays around the world. St. Nicholas Day, celebrated in most of Europe, is a great example of this.

St. Nicholas of Myra was known for giving all of his money away to the needy, caring for children, and showing compassion to just about everyone. He’s believed to be the origin of our beloved Santa Claus, but St. Nicholas day is celebrated on December 6th with parades, gifts, and food.

7. New Years Eve/Day

Last, but not least, is a holiday that just about everyone that uses the Gregorian calendar celebrates. New Years’ celebrations occur all over the world and have a wonderfully wide array of traditions associated with them.

Here in North America, New Year’s Eve is celebrated with a countdown and lots of alcohol. In Japan, some families gather late on New Year’s Eve for a dinner, then at midnight, pay visits to shrines or temples.

In Ecuador, some families will dress a straw man in some old clothes and put a list of each person’s faults with him as a will. At midnight, the straw man is set alight and the faults are burned with him.

The Chinese New Year, on the other hand, always starts at the new moon that falls between January 21st and February 20th. Children typically dress in their newest clothes and people carry lanterns into a huge parade led by a silk dragon, representing strength.

Start Honoring All of the Winter Holidays

Now that you know a bit more about these lesser-known winter holidays, you can add them to your December calendar and start celebrating. Enjoying all of the November and December traditions can make winter a lot more bearable, that’s for sure.

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