Learn about unique traditions, celebrations, and holidays that occur around the world
during December and January.
Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year is the most important of the
holidays. It falls on different dates each year, between January 21 and February 20. Visits to friends and family take place during this celebration. The colour gold is said to bring wealth, and the colour red is
considered especially lucky. The New Year's Eve dinner is very large and includes fish, noodles and dumplings.
Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. Around the world, family members help to decorate the tree and home with bright lights, wreaths,
candles, holly, mistletoe and ornaments.
On Christmas Eve, many people go to church. Also on Christmas Eve, Santa comes from the North Pole in a sleigh to deliver gifts; in Hawaii, it is said he arrives by boat; in Australia, the jolly man arrives on water skis; and in Ghana, he comes out of the jungle.
Eid Al Adha, the Festival of the Sacrifice
Eid Al Adha is celebrated by Muslims on the 10th day of the month of the lunar calendar (In 2008, it fell on December 8) to
willingness of the prophet Ibrahim (or Abraham) to sacrifice his son for God. Today, Muslims sacrifice an animal – usually a goat or a sheep – as a reminder of Ibrahim's obedience to God. The meat is shared with family, friends Muslims or non-Muslims, as well as the poor members of the
Jewish people celebrate Hanukkah, a holiday
honouring the Maccabees
victory over King Antiochus, who forbid Jews to practice their religion. For eight nights, Hanukkah is celebrated with prayer, the lighting of the menorah, and food. A menorah has nine candles, a candle for every night, plus a helper candle. Children play games, sing songs and exchange gifts. Potato
pancakes, known as latkes in Yiddish, are
traditionally associated with Hanukkah and are served with applesauce and sour cream.
On December 26, Kwanzaa is celebrated. It is a holiday to commemorate African heritage. Kwanzaa lasts a week during which participants gather with family and friends to exchange gifts and to light a series of black, red and green candles, which
symbolize the seven basic values of African American family life that are unity, self-determination,
collective work and
responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose,
creativity and faith.
New Year's Day
New Year's Day is the first day of the year in the Gregorian calendar on January 1. There are often fireworks at midnight to
celebrate the new year.
Three Kings Day
At the end of the Twelve Days of Christmas comes a day called the Epiphany, or Three Kings Day.
This holiday is celebrated as the day the three wise men first saw baby Jesus and brought him gifts. On this day in Spain, many children get their Christmas
presents. In Puerto Rico, before children go to sleep on January 5, they leave a box with hay under their beds so the kings will leave good presents. In France, a
delicious King cake is baked. Bakers will hide a coin, jewel or little toy inside it.
The Winter Solstice occurs around December 21st. It is the shortest day of the year. People all over the world participate in
festivals and celebrations. Long ago, people celebrated by lighting bonfires and candles to coax back the sun.
National Geographic Kids