December is without a doubt the most festive month in the year. All manner of festivals and events are held throughout the month, including corporate, religious, and cultural events.
This article examines the nine most famous December holidays worldwide and their symbolism.
Date Marked: November 28 – December 6
Why it’s marked: To commemorate the re-dedication and renaming of the Second Temple in Jerusalem
Where it’s Marked: Israel, and other Jewish communities around the globe
Hannukah, also known as Chanukah (or the Festival of Lights), is an 8-day Jewish festival. It traditionally begins on 25th of the Hebrew month of Kislev. The exact date that Hannukah starts each year can vary according to the Gregorian Calendar. The festival falls between November 28 and December 6.
Hannukah marks the return of the Second Temple of Jerusalem to its original location after the Maccabean Revolt. The eight-day celebrations include the lighting of candles each night. Hannukah also includes special songs like Ma’oz Tzur and the recitation of the Hallel prayers. Another popular Hannukah tradition is to eat oil-dried foods like potato pancakes (also known by latkes) or jam-filled donuts, also known as sufganiyot. Celebrities also exchange gifts and play with dreidels.
2. World AIDS Day
Date Marked December 1
Why it’s marked: To raise awareness about the scourge that is HIV/AIDS
James W. Bunn, Thomas Netter and others first came up with the idea for World AIDS Day in August 1987. Bunn and Netter were at the time working as public information officers in the World Health Organization’s Global Programme on AIDS. The official date of the first World AIDS Day, December 1, was established the following year.
World AIDS Day is dedicated both to raising awareness about HIV/AIDS and to remembering those who have been affected or infected by it. You can commemorate the day in many ways, including by visiting orphaned children, sponsoring safe-sex campaigns and lobbying governments for increased efforts to stop HIV/AIDS spreading.
3. Santa Lucia
Date Marked December 13
Why It’s Not Marked: To honor Lucia of Syracuse.
Where it’s Marked: Scandinavian and in Italy
Santa Lucia, an Italian Saint, was martyred. She is regarded as a light in the darkest hours of the year. Santa Lucia, a symbol of hope and light, is celebrated in Sweden every December 13th. Atmospheric concerts and procesions are held to mark this important day. They feature singers dressed in white with headdresses that contain actual flickering candles.
Date Marked: December 21 – January 1
Why it’s Marked To honor the Norse god Odin
Where it’s Marked: Germany, and other German communities around the globe
Yule (also known as Yuletide) is a Germanic festival that is celebrated by Germanic people all over the globe. This festival is pagan in origin and can be traced back both to the Norse god Odin and the Anglo-Saxon festival Modraniht. Yuletide technically falls under the Winter Solstice. This makes it one of the most beloved winter celebrations worldwide.
The ancients celebrated Yule by lighting huge logs in a bonfire, and then spending the night outside. Log burning is still a common practice, but most people mark the occasion by making a Yule altar, making an Evergreen Yule wreath, and giving back to Mother Nature. Exchanging nature-based gifts and candlelit dinners are common.
Date Marked December 23
Why It’s Not Marked: To oppose Christmas consumerism
Where it’s Marked: Worldwide – Especially in the United States
Festivus, a global December holiday, was popularized by a Seinfeld episode titled “The Strike” in 1997. It is an attempt to protest Christmas consumerism. Festivus is not about buying expensive Christmas trees. It’s about standing around an aluminum pole. Other Festivus traditions include “feats” and “airing grievances.”
Festivus fans have been called anti-conventional and with unorthodox views on Christmas by pundits. The holiday is still very popular, particularly among minimalism and frugal shoppers.
Date Marked December 25
Why it’s marked: To mark the birth of Jesus Christ
Christmas is the most well-known December holiday. Christmas is the day that marks the birth Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Christians believe that he was the last prophet sent by God to save mankind from sin. Christmas is celebrated by all religions, even non-Christians.
It is worth noting, however, that Jesus’ actual birth date is unknown. Because Christmas coincides with the Roman winter solstice, it was chosen. In many countries, Christmas is celebrated as a cultural event and not as a religious holiday. You can mark the occasion in many ways, such as by leaving gifts for Santa Claus and Father Christmas. Many people attend Christmas Day Church services, while others choose to take a vacation.
7. Boxing Day
Date Marked December 26
Why It’s Not Marked: The meaning of symbolism varies
There has been much debate about Boxing Day’s origins and the best way to celebrate it. Many believe this day was when the churches gave alms boxes to the poor following Christmas. Boxing Day is also a day when you can gift postmen, errand boys and other types of servants in appreciation for their work throughout the year.
Boxing Day is still a very popular December holiday, despite its symbolism. Since then, Boxing Day has been made a public holiday across many countries, including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom. These countries mark Boxing Day by hosting sporting events.
Date Marked: December 26 – January 1
Why It’s Important: To protect certain African values
Where it’s Marked Worldwide, especially in the United States
Kwanzaa, a December holiday that is deeply rooted in African history and mainly celebrated in the United States, is called Kwanzaa. Dr. Maulana Karanga created the day and it was first observed in 1966, following the Watts riots that occurred in Los Angeles, California. The term ‘kwanzaa” is loosely translated from the Swahili word “kwanza”, which means “first fruits”.
Kwanzaa is celebrated with traditional African songs, dances, and songs. There are storytelling and poetry. These activities allow for discussion of various principles of African culture. These events often culminate in a huge traditional dinner at the end each day, and a massive feast called “Karamu” on December 31.
9. New Year’s Eve
December 31st, Date Marked
Why it’s Marked To mark end of year
This month’s last December holiday falls on the last day of the month. New Years Eve serves two purposes: to mark the end and usher in the new year.
This day can be observed in many ways. Many religious people go to their worship places to express gratitude for the blessings from another year. Others celebrate New Year’s Eve at bars, restaurants, or other social gatherings. Celebrations peak around midnight when fireworks, joyous songs and cheers fill the air.
More International December Holidays
These are just a few of the many unique holidays that are celebrated in December.
December 1 United Arab Emirates (National Day).
December 4– Ghana (Farmer’s Day).
December 6 Finland (Independence Day), Spain(Constitution Day).
December 7 Thailand (King Bhumibol’s Birthday)
December 10 Thailand (Constitution Day).
December 12 Mexico (The Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe).
December 13 – Malta (Republic day)
December 16 Bangladesh (Victory Day), South Africa’s Day of Reconciliation
December 18 Qatar (National Day).
December 26– Various Countries, Boxing Day, Slovenia (Independence and Unity Day).
December 29 Sri Lanka (Unduvap Full Moon Poya
December 30 – Philippines (Rizal Day)
The Bottom Line
There are many global holidays for December that will help you end the year with style.
Remember that December isn’t just a month for indulgent spending. You can also give the best gifts to those who have made this year worthwhile by giving them thoughtful gifts.
It’s prudent to save enough money to be adequately prepared for the season.