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‘Tis the season for festivity! Christmas receives most of the coverage this time of year. But children celebrate the holiday season differently around the globe. After reading this, you and your multicultural kids may be inspired to add a few new traditions to your own wintertime festivities.
Let’s take a whirlwind tour around the world to see how holiday celebrations differ globally.
On December 5th, Europeans from England to Austria commemorate the scary side of Christmas during Krampusnacht (literally Krampus Night). Krampus celebrations look more like Halloween than anything related to the Yuletide. In fact, young men dress up in terrifying “Krampus” costumes.
So, who is Krampus, and what does he have to do with Christmas?
According to European legend, Krampus is the less than wholesome sidekick of Santa. He comes to punish naughty kids by giving them coal. He carries away the worst offenders in a basket worn on his back. An important staple of European culture, Krampus makes American Santa’s “naughty list” look downright nice.
The day after Krampusnacht, on December 6th, Europeans celebrate the Feast of Saint Nicholas. This feast commemorates the man who inspired the legend of Santa Claus. Saint Nicholas lived in the third century A.D. and died on December 6th. A wealthy man, he gave generously to the poor. He also loved to give gifts to children.
According to one account, he threw bags of gold through the windows of a house with impoverished residents. The bags of gold landed in stockings they’d washed and hung out to dry by the chimney. To this day, in many parts of Europe and North America, filling stockings with gifts from Santa remains an important Christmas tradition.
Let’s jump from Europe around the globe to Asia where nations like China, India, Japan, and Vietnam celebrate Bodhi Day. Bodhi Day commemorates when the Buddha gained enlightenment after meditating under a Bodhi tree. As the tradition goes, the Bodhi tree, a very old fig tree, is located in the Indian state of Bihar, and the site is known as the Bodh Gaya.
To celebrate Buddha’s attainment of enlightenment, Buddhists spend the day reading his teachings and meditating. They also enjoy a meal of cake and tea or rice and milk. Some Buddhists light candles or decorate for Bodhi Day by hanging strings of colored lights on trees or in their homes. These lights represent the many paths to enlightenment.
Also known as the Festival of Lights, Hanukkah is celebrated for eight days and nights in Israel and throughout the world. While the holiday’s dates change each year, it falls in December. Hanukkah commemorates the rededication of the Second Jewish Temple in 165 B.C.
Jews light the eight candles of the Menorah adding one more each night while saying special prayers. The ninth candle sits in the middle and is larger than the rest. This candle is used to light the others. Each night, special foods are eaten (including potato latkes and donuts) and gifts get exchanged.
Kwanzaa means “the first fruits of the harvest” in Swahili and represents a celebration of African culture and local communities. The holiday emphasizes seven principles: self-determination, unity, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith.
From December 26th through January 1st, this African American and Pan-African holiday is celebrated by millions around the world. Kwanzaa culminates in a feast and gift exchange on January 1st, and the seven candles of the kinara are lighted to symbolize the seven principles of the holiday.
As we head into the holiday season, it’s fun to take a moment with our multicultural kids to see how this time is celebrated around the world. From Krampusnacht to Kwanzaa, traditions vary widely. But they all bring excitement and festivity to the winter.
At Our Whole Village, raising globally-minded children is our passion. We create accessible tours designed for families who want to create lasting memories while making a difference. We’re here to help you and your family experience the world, its peoples, and its cultures. Contact us today to learn more about the unforgettable experiences that we handcraft to introduce kids to the world and create better global citizens.
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