Festivities around the world

Candle

By Melody Young

Americans celebrate a number of holidays in the fall and winter including Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.  However, holidays and their significance are not the same throughout the world. Holidays from other countries may seem strange to many of us, but in reality, these holidays are not so different than our traditions.

In Europe, some countries such as Austria, Germany, and Hungary celebrate a unique Christmas tradition in which their Christmas is similar to the American Halloween celebration.  Originating from pre-Christian Germanic folklore, Krampus is a hideous, hairy monster characteristically identified by goat hoofs and horns.  On Christmas, young people dress up as Krampus and roam the streets to scare children much like how Americans dress up as monsters and put up scary decorations for Halloween. This December, the European tradition will make its way to America in Michael Dougherty’s comedy, fantasy, and horror film “Krampus.”

Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains celebrate Diwali, the festival of lights, which takes place between mid-October and mid-November.  This festival celebrates the spiritual victory of light over darkness.  For Hindus, the main Diwali night falls on the Hindu new year, though the Hindu celebration lasts many days.  For Sikhs, Diwali, also known as Bandi Chhor Divas (Day of Liberation), commemorates the release of Guru Hargobind and 52 other princes from prison during the Mughal rule. For Jains, the festival remembers Mahavira’s attainment of moksha, or the freedom from the cycle of death and rebirth. On Diwali night, people dress up in new clothes, light candles, and go outside for family prayers.  After prayers, fireworks are lit and food and gifts are distributed.

The Moon Festival, also known as Mid-Autumn Festival, takes place on the night of the full moon between early September and early October. The festival gathers family for a reunion and celebrates traditional customs such as burning incense and praying for hopes for the upcoming year.  During the festival, people hang up colorful lanterns and lion and dragon dances are performed.  A key delicacy is the traditional moon cakes, pastries which are made only once a year for the celebration.  At the end of the festivities, people write their hopes on sky lanterns and let them off into the sky.

Although these holidays originated from different countries, they are celebrated throughout the United States due to the diverse cultural backgrounds.  We often forget to enjoy the diversity that exists within our country.  Get to know different holidays and expand your knowledge of the world we live in through the people, traditions, and rich culture around us.

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