Happy holidays: December celebrations from around the globe

Peyton Lewis ‘23, Managing Editor/ Layout Director

For Americans, December is a month packed full of winter celebrations—often referred to as “the most wonderful time of the year.”  Everyone has their own traditions and own ways of celebrating. However, there are hundreds of December holidays celebrated all over the world. These are a few that are observed by different countries.

Dec. 6: St. Nicholas Day

St. Nicholas Day celebrates the anniversary of the death of St Nicholas, a Catholic saint who inspired the modern day version of Santa Claus. Although this is a different celebration than Christmas, it also stems from the tradition of giving, as the saint was known for his generosity. The holiday is celebrated in many countries across Europe. Traditionally, children will write letters to St. Nicholas and oftentimes they are given special candies and gifts, which they may find under their pillow or in shoes they have laid out.

Dec. 12: Fiesta of Our Lady Guadalupe

This Catholic holiday is important to both Mexicans and Mexican Americans. It celebrates the appearance of Virgin Mary to a Mexican peasant, Juan Diego, in 1531. According to the lore, and an article by NBC News, “on the morning of December 12, the vision appeared to Juan Diego and directed him to gather flowers at the top of the hill… The ‘lady’ helped Juan Diego arrange them in his tilma, or cloak, and he went back to his bishop. When Juan Diego showed the bishop his cloak, the roses tumbled out and on the inside of the cloak was an image of the Virgin Mary. Since then, this image has been known as Our Lady of Guadalupe.” She is an important figure for Mexicans and  Catholics all over the world and images of her are often found on murals and in museums.

Dec. 13: St. Lucia’s Day

St. Lucia’s day is a Christian holiday celebrated in Sweden, Norway, and Swedish-speaking areas of Finland. It takes place on Dec. 13 in honor of St. Lucia, who was killed by the Romans in 304 C.E. because of her religious beliefs. The festival celebration begins with a designated St. Lucia, elected by each town, leading a procession of young girls and boys, dressed in white, in singing traditional songs. This festival marks the beginning of the Christmas season. Typically, schools close at noon on this day to allow families time to prepare for the festivities.

Dec. 26: Boxing Day

Boxing Day is celebrated in Great Britain, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand on Dec. 26. However, if Dec. 26 falls on a Saturday, the holiday is celebrated the following Monday. If it falls on a Sunday then it is celebrated on Tuesday. The holiday started centuries ago  as a day where servants were given the day off and received a special Christmas box from their masters. According to an article by BBC, “Churches also played a part in the creation of Boxing Day. Through the year they would take money from churchgoers in the form of a collection and hand it out at Christmas. Many of them stored the collection money in a box, which they opened on Christmas Day. The money was then handed out to the poor the next day – on Boxing Day.” Now, the holiday has become a popular day for watching sports, including soccer and cricket, shopping, and visiting friends. 

Dec. 31: Omisoka

Omisoka is a Japanese celebration on the last day of the year. New Year’s Day, celebrated on Jan. 1, is the most important holiday in Japanese tradition, so the goal of Omisoka is to prepare for the new year. The purpose of this holiday is to resolve any loose ends and take care of any unfinished business. This allows everyone to begin the new year with a fresh start. Overall, this is a day for reflection and meditation  rather than traditional celebration.

In American culture, December holidays hold great importance. Around the world, there are many other December holidays that many Americans may not be familiar with. These are some of the most popular December holidays celebrated around the globe.  It can be beneficial to learn about these holidays and expand our views of the world, as well as other cultures and perspectives.

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