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San Marcos High School ~ Santa Barbara, CA

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Holiday Traditions Around the World
Photo by cottonbro on

All around the world, holidays are celebrated in their own unique way. Some celebrate the story of the birth of Jesus, some celebrate St. Nick’s evil counterpart, some participate in traditions in their community, and some simply spend time with loved ones around the holidays. No matter what your holiday season holds, it is safe to say that traditions come in all different shapes and sizes. 

Religion plays a large role in different peoples’ traditions. Judaism celebrates Hanukkah, remembering the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem during the second century B.C., where according to legend Jews had risen up against their Greek-Syrian oppressors in the Maccabean Revolt. On each of the holiday’s eight nights another candle is added to the menorah. During this ritual Jews typically recite blessings and display the menorah in a window as a sign to others of the miracle behind the holiday. Other Hanukkah customs include playing with four-sided spinning tops called dreidels and exchanging gifts. 

In African-American culture, Kwanza is commonly celebrated. The name Kwana, originated from the phrase “matunda ya kwanza” which means “first fruits” in Swahili. Every family celebrates in their own unique way, but celebrations often include songs and dances, African drums, storytelling, poetry reading, and a large traditional meal. 

Evergreens and snowmen might be what Americans are used to during this season. Australia experiences a different environment as Christmas is in the middle of summer vacation. This makes it the perfect time for a beach party. Carols by Candlelight is one of the more popular traditions, where people gather to sing songs and light candles in outdoor parks and venues. 

Creative Commons“2018 – Mexico – Oaxaca – La Noche de Rábanos – 4 of 26” by Ted’s photos – For Me & You is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

When you think of Christmas, you think of radishes, right? Well in Oaxaca, Mexico, December 23rd marks the Night of the Radishes. This is the celebration of oversized radishes carved into intricate designs and displays. Dating back to colonial times, the Spanish introduced radishes to this region of Mexico, which is also popular for their traditions of wood carving. Shop owners use their radish carvings to attract holiday shoppers into their stores. 

A traditional holiday dinner on Christmas Eve that honors dead friends and relatives is common within Portugal homes.  Members of the family will leave an empty chair at the table for the “souls of the devil” who may be present at the meal. Leftovers remain at the table for hungry ghosts who were not able to attend the feast. Contrasting traditional American celebrations, afterlife plays a large role in many holiday celebrations around the world. The dead are extremely important in many cultures and continue to be incorporated into many cultural customs. 

“Every year on December first, my family and I go buy our Christmas tree and decorate it when we get home,” said sophomore student Bekah Sugano. “This is my christmas tradition because it gets the whole holiday season started and it’s been part of my family for as long as i can remember.”

Many of us probably relate to Bekah. Many American households celebrate getting a Christmas tree to decorate with lights and ornaments. explains the origin of Christmas trees like this: “The history of Christmas trees goes back to the symbolic use of evergreens in ancient Egypt and Rome and continues with the German tradition of candle lit Christmas trees first brought to America in the 1800s.” (I’m not sure how to word that??)

No matter where you are located or your religious beliefs, everyone has their own interesting ways of spending the holidays through traditions and special customs. As the holidays approach us in the pandemic, we will all find our own way to celebrate the season in unique ways that we are not used to.

Creative Commons“christmas tree 2004” by scottfeldstein is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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About the Contributor
Jillie Yager
Jillie Yager, Staff Writer
Jillie is in 12th grade at San Marcos and this is her second year as a King’s Page Staff Writer. Her favorite subject in school is history. Outside of school, she enjoys going to the beach, hanging out with her friends, and thrifting.
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Holiday Traditions Around the World