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Posts Tagged ‘winter holidays’

SIRS Discoverer Spotlight of the Month: Winter Holidays Around the World

The winter season is here! For many people, the winter season means cold, wind, and snow. Trees may be bare and the ground could be icy. The sun may set sooner, delivering darkness to our late afternoons. Whether you live in a place that’s cold, hot, or somewhere in between, winter means lots of fun holidays and celebrations around the world.

Christmas Tree

Christmas Tree
Image by Susanne Nilsson via flickr is licensed under CCA-SA 2.0 Generic

These holidays may be associated with religious beliefs, spiritual customs, past events or cultural practices. This diversity makes each holiday very unique. Just think about all of the ways holidays are celebrated! Traditions may include festivals, lights, singing, decorations, parades, gift-giving, prayer, fairs, fasts or feasts. Each holiday has its own symbols, too, such as red lanterns for Chinese New Year, pine trees for Christmas, menorahs for Hanukkah, ears of corn for Kwanzaa, and Yule logs for the winter solstice.

Hanukkah Candles

Hanukkah Candles
Credit: Public Domain

Wonderful holidays full of light, warmth, family, and love have been created out of these cold, dark days. The Jewish holiday Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, celebrates the miracle of light with family and communal rituals, including the lighting of a Menorah candle each night for eight nights. Christmas, a Christian holiday honoring the birth of Jesus Christ, is observed with family gatherings, songs, and trees decorated with lights representing the Star of Bethlehem. Some families take part in a Kwanzaa ceremony, which incorporates candles, music, food, and blessings. A beautiful luminary can be part of the Mexican observance of Las Posadas.

Kwanzaa

Kwanzaa
Image by soulchristmas via flickr is licensed under CCA-SA 2.0 Generic

Visit SIRS Discoverer’s Spotlight of the Month and learn more about winter observances and holidays and the many ways that they light and warm our winter months.

SKS Spotlight: Winter Traditions

Candles <<br />> by Consumer Product Safety Commission via ProQuest SIRS Government Reporter [Public Domain]

Candles
by Consumer Product Safety Commission via ProQuest SIRS Government Reporter [Public Domain]

The winter season has arrived, bringing with it a diverse array of winter holidays around the world, each reflecting the culture from which it came. Long-established elements of many winter traditions are fire and  light, which warm even the coldest and darkest months in much of the Northern Hemisphere. From flickering Hanukkah candles to Christmas trees decorated with lights; from the burning of the Yule log to the lighting of the Kwanzaa kinara, these winter celebrations incorporate light into the festivities. Some winter observances engender a sense of community: in China, the winter season is commemorated with lavish street festivals during the Lunar New Year; in Mexico, Las Posadas is commemorated with street parties and processions paying homage to Mary and Joseph’s search for lodging in Bethlehem. Some spiritual observations, including the Buddhist holiday Bodhi Day, are more meditative. Other winter holidays are celebrated with feasts, such as Santerian saints’ days or Baha’i faith’s spiritual observances. Learn more about worldwide winter observances and celebrations in SKS/SIRS Issues Researcher December Spotlight of the Month.

New Year’s History and Traditions

New York Ushers In New Year With Celebration In Times SquareNew Year’s Eve is here, and, depending on your outlook, you might see it as the last hurrah of the holiday season or a merciful release from two months of hubbub and gluttony. Either way, here is a quick look at the origins and some of the traditions of new year celebrations via resources available in eLibrary.

The earliest commemorations of the new year go back 4,000 years to when ancient Mesopotamians held an Akitu festival near the time of the vernal equinox. Today, the Persian calendar new year, Nowruz, is still celebrated at the spring equinox in Iran and parts of the Caucasus, Central Asia and China.

In much of the world, the start of the new year is observed on January 1. This stems from widespread adoption of the Gregorian calendar., which was instituted by Pope Gregory in order to standardize the day on which Easter was celebrated.

TET Festival, Lunar New Year In VietnamAsia has many different new-year celebrations, including Thailand’s Songkran purification festival, featuring mass water fights, and Chinese New Year, a lunar-calendar event known for its lion dances and fireworks and is observed in many countries on the continent and by Chinese communities around the world. This article provides a sampling of traditional Asian new-year foods.

The traditions and beliefs associated with the New Year’s Eve and Day are seemingly endless.

In the U.S., the ball drop in Times Square at midnight is the culmination of the New Year’s Eve party in New York City and for the rest of the East Coast. The ball drop has inspired other “drops” of items, including a possum drop in North Carolina. After the ball descends, there is often singing of Auld Lang Syne, the lyrics for which are attributed to Scottish poet Robert Burns, and lots of kissing, a tradition that is traced back to the ancient Romans and their Saturnalia and winter solstice festivals.

Since New Year’s Day is seen a chance for a new beginning, it has become customary for people to make resolutions for the coming year. Having trouble keeping promises to get in shape, work harder or be nicer? Try shooting for achievable resolutions or “unresolutions.”

There are many more New Year’s customs and superstitions to be discovered in eLibrary; just start searching. Here are some round-ups to get you started: article 1, article 2, article 3. Also, see our New Year’s Eve/Day Research Topic, which, like thousands of other RTs, can be found by typing an exact-match phrase in the eLibrary search box (note the drop-down list as you are typing) and by clicking the Browse Research Topics button below the Basic Search area.

SKS Spotlight of the Month: Winter Traditions

Christmas Tree and Children <br \> Consumer Product Safety Commission, via ProQuest SIRS Government Reporter [Public Domain]

Christmas Tree and Children
Consumer Product Safety Commission, via ProQuest SIRS Government Reporter [Public Domain]

Christmas holiday celebrations are the result of hundreds of years of blending with other spiritual, religious, and cultural traditions.

Roman Church Fathers conceived the observation of the Nativity and added it to the Christian calendar about 350 years after the development of Christianity. They wanted to indoctrinate the idea that Jesus was human and so celebrate him by recognizing his physical birth. The event was positioned during the winter season, which was already replete with revels and festivals such as Saturnalia, a pretty wild and lavish time. To the Church Fathers’ chagrin, Christmas followed suit and was soon defined by parties, feasts, luxuries, and drinking, not by religion as they had envisioned. It was only during the 1800s that Christmas transformed into the holiday many know today: an integration of the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ and the holiday’s pagan roots of parties, lights, music, and indulgences.

Want to learn more about the evolution of Christmas and other holidays? Visit December’s SKS Spotlight of the Month and explore the winter traditions of Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Diwali, Chinese New Year, and more.

SIRS Discoverer Spotlight of the Month: Winter Holidays Around the World

Person Walking in a Snowstorm <br \> by NOAA, Department of Commerce, via ProQuest SIRS Government Reporter [Public Domain]

Person Walking in a Snowstorm
by NOAA, Department of Commerce, via ProQuest SIRS Government Reporter [Public Domain]

Bring out the coats, scarves, hats, and gloves–it’s almost winter! For many people, the winter season means cold, wind, and snow. Trees may be bare and the ground could be icy. The sun may set sooner, delivering darkness to our late afternoons.

Wonderful holidays full of light, warmth, family, and love have been created out of these cold, dark days. The Jewish holiday Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights,  celebrates the miracle of light with family and communal rituals, including the lighting of a Menorah candle each night for eight nights. This year, Jewish families were able to celebrate an extra holiday–the very rare “Thanksgivukkah,” a combination of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving holidays! Christmas, a Christian holiday honoring the birth of Jesus Christ, is observed with family gatherings, songs, and trees decorated with lights representing the Star of Bethlehem. Some families take part in a Kwanzaa ceremony, which incorporates candles, music, food, and blessings. A beautiful luminary can be part of the Mexican observance of Las Posadas. The Hindu holiday Diwali is a five-day festival–and its name, “Diwali,” means row of lights!

Visit SIRS Discoverer’s Spotlight of the Month and learn more about winter observances and holidays and the many ways that they light and warm our winter months.