This past week has marked yet another holiday in the books for 2023. With Thanksgiving now passed we only have one major American Holiday left, Christmas. Call me the grinch, but Christmas doesn’t begin until Thanksgiving ends. Let the Autumn season have its time for goodness sake. Now that that’s out of the way; in addition to Christmas, we have a number of other holidays from other cultures including Hanukkah and whatever manner of winter tradition you see fit for your family and their background. With that being said, I think it’s important to realize that there are indeed many different cultural practices for the beloved winter tradition. Across many parts of the world, Christmas signifies a time of rest and spending time with loved ones. So grab a cup of hot cocoa and take a gander at these vastly different cultural traditions for the celebration of the end of the year.
Starting with one of my favorite Christmas stories. The cultural aspect of a German Christmas is known as Krampus. This anti-Santa is featured on Krampuskarten (Krampus Cards) reminding children to behave in their families. Speaking truthfully, Krampus as a tradition actually predates Christianity in the Alpine region with it showing up in pagan tradition. After Christmas arrived in this region, Krampus was incorporated into the tradition and children were warned not to misbehave lest Krampus overhear them and he comes to gobble them up.
Another place for interesting Christmas traditions is right to our southern border. Mexico has a number of different Christmas celebrations despite the fact that they are a bit lacking in the snowy weather department. Be that as it may, they may have more holiday spirit than we Americans do, with their Christmas season lasting from mid-December to early January, and an additional day on February 2nd. Talk about an extended celebration. They also have this rather neat tradition called Las Posadas, where the children of Mexico go to different doors of inns asking for shelter. This is meant to signify the original story of Mary and Joeseph seeking shelter on the night Jesus was born. In some ways, it’s similar to our tradition of going door-to-door caroling.
To switch gears entirely, I thought it would be interesting to talk about the Hanukkah traditions of Jewish communities. Hanukkah itself is a tradition that commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple after the Jewish people overthrew their Greek-Syrian oppressors. This 7-day long festival typically ends on the 26th of December with a Festival of Lights as they finish lighting the menorah.
A little further north we have another rather interesting set of traditions in Ukrainian society. Now, it’s important to note that it’s difficult to know the extent of which these traditions are still followed today with the increasingly prolonged war happening in Ukraine. However, there is one rather interesting Christmas Eve dinner tradition known as the Sviata Vecheria (Holy Dinner). This dinner is not so simple however, in fact, it has 12 individual dishes served. Each of these 12 relates directly to one of the 12 disciples of Jesus. Got to be honest, I can’t imagine a higher honor than having some delicious food be named after me.
Overall it was rather interesting to see the differences between so many different cultures and their distinct differences and similarities with our own Winter Holiday celebrations. It’s also important to note that this article should serve to show a small portion of the amazing diversity of celebrations our world has to offer. We shouldn’t judge one another for the differences we have in celebration, except maybe for that one neighbor who goes all out on lawn ornaments… Just kidding!