Happy Holidays Around the World

Happy Holidays! We hear that a lot this time of year and usually think about the holiday we personally celebrate, but what about all the others?  There are so many people in the world, 7.8 billion people, give or take. Do we all think and celebrate the same things with the same traditions? No way!   

Let’s take a look at some of the holidays celebrated around the world.   

Lunar New Year 

The Lunar New Year holiday is based on the lunar calendar, so it is celebrated at different times through the year depending on that year’s calendar. It is a time to make all things fresh and celebrate good luck and happiness.   

Traditions: Connect with family and friends, add scarlet red decorations (red represents prosperity), share wealth with others (usually given in red envelopes), participate in traditional dances or fireworks shows, declutter, and eat tasty treats. Some examples of these traditional tasty treats are: Dumplings from China, Tsagaan Sar from Mongolia, and Tteokguk from Korea.  Other foods like mandarin oranges, candied fruits and fish are eaten, displayed and gifted across all the cultures that celebrate the Lunar New Year.  

Kwanzaa 

Kwanzaa is an African American holiday that celebrates culture and heritage. It begins on December 26, and lasts for 7 days, each day is dedicated to an important community principle. The seven core principles include: Umoji (Unity), Kujichagulia (Self-Determination), Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility), Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity), and Imani (Faith). 

Traditions: It is traditional to light the Kinara, which includes seven candles, to represent the seven principles. In addition to lighting these candles there are traditional practices as well. On the sixth day it is traditional to enjoy a large feast together with friends and family. And on the seventh day handmade gifts are exchanged. The seventh day is also a Day of Meditation or Assessment, it is traditional to use this day to reflect and set new goals.  

Resources: Kwanzaa video PBS Kids 

Books:  

Kwanzaa by M.C. Johnston  

Seven Candles for Kwanzaa by Andrea Pinkney 

Holidays Around the World: Celebrate Kwanzaa by Carolyn Otto 

Activities:  

Kwanzaa Wreath Craft 

Kwanzaa Unity Cup 

Diwali 

Diwali is considered India’s largest and most important holiday of the year.  The festival gets its name from the row of traditional clay lamps in India used light outside each family’s homes to symbolize the inner light that protects from spiritual darkness.    

Traditions: Diwali is comprised of a five day festival and each day has special and specific meaning.  

The Five Days 

  • Day One: People clean their homes and shop for gold or kitchen utensils to help bring good fortune.  
  • Day Two: People decorate their homes with clay lamps and create design patterns called rangoli on the floor using colored powders or sand.  
  • Day Three: On the main day of the festival, family gather together for Lakshmi puja, a prayer to Goddess Lakshmi, followed by mouth-watering feasts and firework festivities.  
  • Day Four: This is the first day of the New Year, when friends and relatives visit with gifts and best wishes for the season.  
  • Day Five: Brothers visit their married sisters, who welcome them with love and a lavish meal.  

Resources: Diwali video from Culture Groove Kids 

Books: 

Let’s celebrate 5 Days of Diwali! By Ajanta Chakraborty 

Holidays Around the World: Celebrate Diwali: With Sweets, Lights, and Fireworks by Deborah Heiligman 

Activities:  

Diwali Rangoli Craft 

Diwali Flower Lantern 

Hanukkah 

Hanukkah/Chanukah, or the Festival of Rededication, celebrates the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem in 164 BCE.  The eight-day festival, usually held in December, is celebrated by Jewish people around the world, and is also known as the Festival of Lights.  

Traditions:  Celebrations include the lighting of the menorah, an eight-branched candelabrum, special prayers, singing songs, playing traditional games like dreidel and giving Hanukkah gelt and gifts of money.  In addition people enjoy traditional food with family and friends such as potato latke with applesauce or sour cream, or sufganya, a jelly-filled doughnut.  

Resources: 

Hanukkah videos for Kids from PBS Kids 

Books:  

The Story of Hanukkah by David A. Adler 

Holidays Around the World: Celebrate Hanukkah: With Lights, Latkes, and Dreidels by Deborah Heiligman 

Activities:  

Play dreidel 

Make a Duct Tape Purse 

Christmas 

Christmas Day is December 25th and is celebrated by people within the Christian faith around the world and symbolizes the birth of Jesus Christ.  Many Christmas traditions are celebrated outside of the church as well and they include illuminating family homes with lights, decorating evergreen trees, and gathering together for parties and feasts with friends and family.  

Traditions: Many celebrate Christmas with traditional music and carols, exchanging presents, attending church services, watching holiday movies, and baking and eating traditional cookies.  Christmas decorations can include festive trees covered in ornaments and lights, nativity scenes, garlands, wreaths, mistletoe, holly, and Santa Claus with his elves.   

Resources:  

Video about Christmas from PBS Kids 

Books: 

Holidays Around the World: Celebrate Christmas: With Carols, Presents and Peace by Deborah Heiligman 

Santa’s Favorite Story: Santa Tells the Story of the First Christmas by Hisako Aoki 

Activities:  

String Christmas Tree 

Popsicle Stick Ornaments 

Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr 

Throughout the month of Ramadan people fast from sun up to sun down, it is a time to give and share with others. Eid al-Fitr is the Festival of Breaking the Fast and is celebrated to mark the end of Ramadan.  

Traditions: After the sunset prayer, people gather with family and friends in their homes or mosques to break their daily fast with dates.  Some communities sound drums or ring bells before sunrise to remind others that it is time for the morning meal. Celebrating Eid al-Fitr – children wear new clothes, women dress in white, special food is prepared, gifts are exchanged, and people gather with family and friends.  

Resources:  

Video about Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr 

Books:  

Ramadan by M.C. Hall 

Lailah’s Lunchbox by Reem Faruqi 

Activities:  

12 Ramadan Activities for all ages 

Throughout the holiday season we hope you have a chance to experience some of these activities and take time to learn about the traditions of others.  Below is a list of Girl Scout Badges that will allow girls to learn and experience new traditions and cultures through these activities. If you think of another let us know in the comments.   

Here are some badge step ideas: 

  • Brownie Celebrating Community Badge  
  • Brownie Snacks Badge 
  • Junior Simple Meals Badge  
  • Junior Musician Badge 

Post by Liz Bleacher

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