The Robert H. Smith School of Business is celebrating 13 holidays from around the world listed below in alphabetical order. Get in the spirit and join us in these inclusive, fun and educational festivities.
This holiday, celebrated Dec. 26, originated in the United Kingdom but is celebrated in many countries that were under British rule. It started as a holiday to recognize people in service positions and those in need with Christmas boxes of gifts or money.
Chinese New Year
This most important Chinese holiday marks the start of the new year in the traditional Chinese calendar. It begins on the second new moon after the winter solstice and ends on the full moon 15 days later, falling sometime between late January to late February. People celebrate by visiting family and friends, sharing special meals, holding religious ceremonies, giving gifts, holding parades and dragon or lion dances, and setting off fireworks. In China, many businesses close for seven days for the public holiday.
Observed on Dec. 25, this cultural event commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ. It is celebrated with a mix of religious and secular customs, which include gift giving, Christmas music and caroling, sending holiday cards, attending church services, displaying nativity scenes and decorating with Christmas trees, lights, wreaths and garlands. The lore of Santa Claus – and similar figures Father Christmas, Saint Nicholas and Kris Kringle – bringing gifts to children plays a big role in the holiday’s traditions and symbols in many countries.
Also known as the Festival of Lights, this Jewish holiday commemorates an ancient miracle of one day’s worth of oil lasting for eight days in their temple. Hanukkah falls between November and December, according to the Hebrew calendar, and Jews celebrate by lighting candles on a menorah for eight nights. Other festivities include eating foods cooked in oil, such as potato latkes and donuts, and playing dreidel, a spinning top game, to win small prizes like chocolate coins called “gelt.”
This Christmas season festival first celebrated in West Africa was brought to the Americas and the Caribbean by slaves. Women and men dress in costumes, participate in parades, perform dances, sing and play music to celebrate. The Bahamas and Jamaica have large celebrations.
This spiritual holiday takes place from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1. It means “first fruits” and is based on ancient African harvest festivals, celebrating the ideals of family life and unity. It is celebrated by African Americans in the United States and other countries in the Americas. Families dress in special clothes, decorate their homes with fruits and vegetables, and light candles in a holder called a kinara. The weeklong celebration culminates with a feast and gift giving.
This religious observance is celebrated in Latin America, Mexico, Guatemala, Cuba and by Hispanics in the United States in the nine days before Christmas. Traditions include Christmas pageant reenactments, where people dressed as Joseph and Mary (sometimes riding a real donkey) lead a procession of neighbors, children, and musicians. They travel to different houses each night to pray, sing and celebrate together with food, carols and star-shaped piñatas.
Lunar New Year
This holiday marks the start of the year for countries that follow lunar calendars, including Taiwan, Vietnam, Singapore, China and Malaysia. February and April are the most commons months for Lunar New Year to fall, but the celebrations can also fall in March, September or November. Traditions vary, but some examples include exchanging red envelopes or silk pouches containing money, setting off fireworks, playing games, eating traditional dishes, cleaning the house and holding parades with colorful costumes.
This festival falls during the two weeks before and through Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the solemn Christian season of Lent. In New Orleans, people wear costumes, participate in large street parades with decorated floats, hold masquerade balls, and drink and eat. In many other countries with large Catholic populations, as well as Greece, the festival before Lent is known as Carnival and also features music, costumes, parades and street parties.
Recognized on Jan. 1, this day begins the new calendar year globally and is celebrated as a national holiday in many countries (though many countries, cultures and religions celebrate New Year at different times). New Year’s Eve celebrations are held to count down the moments left in the previous year and mark the new year, often with parties, eating, drinking, dancing, fireworks and fanfare.
The Spanish term for Christmas Eve, Noche Buena (literal translation: “good night”) is often the biggest feast of the holiday season in Latin America, Spain and the Philippines. Families celebrate with a traditional dinner of roasted pig.
Saint Lucia’s Day
Celebrated on Dec. 13, this Scandinavian holiday is the feast day of third-century martyr and saint, Lucia. According to legend, she wore a candle-lit wreath on her head to light the way as she carried food and supplies to persecuted Christians hiding in the catacombs. Scandinavian towns host St. Lucia’s Day festivals to kick off the Christmas season. To celebrate at home, girls often dress in white and serve their families coffee and traditional baked goods of saffron bread and ginger biscuits.
Cultures around the world have a tradition of hosting feasts and other celebrations to mark this shortest day and longest night of the year. In the northern hemisphere it falls between Dec. 20 and Dec. 23, depending on the year. (In the southern hemisphere, it occurs in June.) Celebrations often include symbols of fire and light.