No matter what you celebrate, the holidays are a wonderful time to spend with family, eat great food and take part in timeless traditions. Many different celebrations take place during the winter months.
Christmas. Commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ on December 25 each year, Christmas traditions in Canada generally include exchanging gifts, singing carols, decorating the house, attending church and feasting with family and friends.
Giant Lantern Festival, Philippines. People from all over the country come together in San Fernando the Saturday before Christmas Eve to compete in creating the most extravagant lantern. Adorned with magnificent patterns and illuminated by colourful lights, some are as big as six metres across.
Diwali. The Hindu festival of lights takes place between mid-October and mid-November and signifies the spiritual victory of light over darkness, good over evil and knowledge over ignorance. During Diwali, believers wear their finest clothes, decorate their houses with diyas (oil lamps) or candles, make rangoli (floor decorations made of colorful sand), light fireworks and offer puja (worship) to Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity and wealth.
Hanukkah. The eight-day Jewish festival of lights is celebrated with special prayers, songs, food and lighting the menorah each night. The celebration is symbolic of a miracle – in the second century BCE, a small army of Jews defeated the Seleucids (Syrian-Greeks) to reclaim the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. With only a one-day supply of oil, they lit the temple’s menorah, yet miraculously, the oil lasted for eight days.
Krampus, Austria. While Santa Claus rewards good children with toys and presents, Krampus, a demon-like creature, roams the streets of Austria frightening little boys and girls who were naughty the year before.
Bodhi Day. December 8 commemorates the day that Buddha reached enlightenment over two thousand years ago. The Buddha, a prince known as Siddhartha Gautama, meditated under the sacred fig tree (known as the Bodhi tree) until he discovered the reason for mankind’s suffering. Buddhists celebrate by adorning trees with decorative beads, lights and ornaments, meditating and visiting shrines.
KFC Christmas dinner, Japan. Christmas is done on a much smaller scale in Japan. One festive Christmas meal gaining in popularity is a special fried chicken dinner enjoyed with friends and family.
Holiday feasts are one of the best parts of celebrating. While an immeasurable amount of turkey and pie are on the traditional North American menu, people around the globe have their own festive meals. Here are some delicious traditions from other parts of the world.
Latkes are crispy fried-potato cakes that are a staple during Hanukkah. They are usually eaten with applesauce or other sweet sauces on the side.
Puerto Rico: Pasteles
Pasteles are time-consuming to make – families often dedicate two whole days to preparing them. They consist of root vegetable dough combined with chicken, pork or fish, chickpeas, raisins and olives, wrapped in a banana leaf and steamed.
Singapore: Curry Devil
The ultimate holiday leftover meal is the Curry Devil. Leftovers like sausage, chicken, cucumbers, cabbage and other vegetables are cooked in a fiery Singaporean gravy that includes red chilies, shallots, garlic and lemongrass, and then served with plain white rice.
South Africa: Braai
Since Christmas occurs during South Africa’s summer, a braai (barbecue) is the typical feast for the day. South Africans grill chicken, lamb, sausages and other meats over an open fire.
Italy: Feast of the Seven Fishes
The Italians celebrate with a feast fit for King Triton himself! Stemming from the Roman Catholic tradition of abstaining from meat and dairy products on Christmas Eve, Italian families enjoy a meal consisting of seven kinds of fish or seafood.
Celebrations can positively impact your mental and physical health. Bonding and socializing with loved ones releases oxytocin, noradrenaline and endorphins that can make you feel energized and happy, help heal wounds or reduce pain, and help you focus.
However, holidays can also be lonely for some, as not everyone has family to celebrate with. Here are a few ideas if you find yourself alone on a holiday.
1. Spend the day at home in your favourite pyjamas and have a movie (or TV show) marathon. This is the perfect plan if you want a little time to yourself.
2. Go for a walk. There’s beauty in the calm and stillness of a city that is usually packed with people. Most shops are closed, so you can really enjoy the beautiful sights your city may offer, without distraction.
3. Volunteer at a shelter or soup kitchen and help spread joy to others. You’ll feel good about helping those in need and meet new people in the process.
4. Have a Friendabration! Bring people together who may also be spending the holidays alone. Try hosting a potluck and make new traditions with your chosen family.
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