It’s the holidays!

Reindeer bus
A reindeer bus in downtown Vancouver (by David Lam, via trans-continental)

Students have survived the onslaught of final exams and papers that plagued the first half of December and can now indulge in some festive activities. Anywhere you go in Vancouver, signs of the holidays are sure to be found: wreathes and garlands adorn every wall, Starbucks coffee cups are red and snowy, and buses decorated as reindeer rush through the city. There are radio stations that play holiday music throughout the entire day (which you will be subjected to if you decide to venture into any shopping centre).

However, not all cities are decked out in Christmas spirit the same way that Vancouver is. While Christmas remains one of the most commonly celebrated holidays, its celebrations are carried out in different ways across the globe.

Luwombo, a traditional Ugandan dish often on holidays and celebrations (by whatscookinginyourworld)

In Uganda, Christmas is called Sekukkulu. Families spend the months leading up to the 25th preparing  for the celebrations, which include gatherings and feasts. A traditional dish often served during this time is Luwombo, where smoked chicken, mushrooms, onions, and vegetables are wrapped in banana leaves and steamed, and then served with mashed plantains. During this time, churches also become filled as people visit to pray.

In Japan, Christmas is primarily celebrated as a secular holiday, as only a small percentage of the population is Christian. Customs bear many similarities to western traditions, such as the practice of decorating Christmas trees and giving gifts. Alternately, New Year’s Day on the 1st of January is the biggest holiday of the year. People send postcards and visit temples and shrines, and celebrations take place all through the month.

Many of Iceland’s Christmas traditions are similar to Canada’s. However, one major difference is that instead of having only one Santa Claus, there are thirteen Santas in Iceland! They are called jólasveinar and also bear gifts for children.

In addition to Christmas, there are other religious and cultural holidays celebrated in December.

Yalda Night Table (by Pejman Akbarzadeh)
Yalda Night Table (by Pejman Akbarzadeh)

Yalda is often celebrated in Iran, and takes place on the winter solstice. While originally a religious holiday rooted in Persian/Iranian history, Yalda today is a social gathering for families and friends, who stay up past midnight and sit around a table to share stories and memories.  

Kwanzaa is an African-American holiday celebrated predominantly in the United States from December 26 to January 1. Common traditions include feasts, gift exchanges, and performances.

Hanukkah is an Jewish holiday spanning eight days and takes place anywhere from late November to late December. The Menorah, a nine branched candelabrum, is lit for the duration of the holiday. Some customs include giving gifts, singing songs, and reciting hymns.

All over the world, there are countless celebrations taking place. One underlying theme in many of them is community. Whether it be among family members or friends, your community at school or in your neighbourhood, the holiday season is undoubtedly best spent in the company of fantastic people.

Happy holidays!