“A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people.” –  Mohandas Gandhi

With an uncountable number of religions, traditions and holidays celebrated around the globe, it is important to learn about the different cultures transforming our world. To continue promoting international understanding, development and peace, we have compiled a few celebrations taking place this holiday season.

Christmas and New Year’s

Christmas Day is a federal holiday in the United States, celebrated on Dec. 25. Christmas is a Christian holiday marking the birth of the Jesus Christ. Decorating houses and yards with lights, exchanging gifts, decorating Christmas trees, and sending greeting cards have become holiday traditions for many non-Christians around the world.

KL-YES student Saminu Umar celebrating Christmas 2009 with his host family in Cedar Rapids.

Following Christmas is New Year’s Day, which is celebrated the night before on Dec. 31. Americans and many other nations gather to celebrate a prosperous coming year and make new year’s resolutions.

New Year’s Eve is the biggest night-out of the year in England. Along with an extravagant parade, people of the United Kingdom attend theme parties, concerts, and celebrate with lavish meals, dancing, champagne and fireworks.


One of the world’s fastest-growing religions is Islam. Practiced in Indonesia, South Asia, Central Asia, and the Middle East, the ancient religion also flourishes farther south in Sub-Saharan Africa. While nearly 35 percent of the Tanzanian and Nigerian public practice Christianity, there is also a very large Muslim community. Nearly half of Nigerians and a large portion of Tanzanians are also Muslim and practice Islamic traditions such as Ramadan.

Egyptians praying in the Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo during Ramadan

During the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, Muslims fast for 29 or 30 days, refraining from eating, drinking or smoking during daylight hours. It teaches them about patience, spirituality and a sense of submissiveness to Allah. Each year Ramadan is moved backwards by eleven days; thus, a person will have fasted every day within 34 years’ time. Along with praying more frequently, charity work is also done throughout the country. Ramadan will begin at sunset on July 20, 2012 and end at sunset on Aug. 20, 2012.


Spring Festival

China’s most celebrated holiday takes place on the first day of the first lunar month, lasting for two weeks. Spring Festival, more commonly known as Chinese New Year, can be compared to Christmas in many countries. It is the longest and most important festivity in the Chinese calendar.

This year, the Chinese will celebrate the Year of the Dragon.

Families gather for a reunion dinner, and celebrate good behavior and what they believe in most. Customs consist of presents, decorations, and cleaning the house to rid of any bad fortunes for the upcoming year. After a dinner, families end the night with firecrackers. Children receive money in red envelopes and wish their parents a healthy and happy new year.

Chinese New Year is also celebrated in Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and other countries where a significant Chinese population exists. This year the holiday will begin on Jan. 23, 2012.

 The Day of Goodwill

The day after Christmas may not always seen as a day to celebrate, but South Africans and people of the United Kingdom continue their celebration onto Dec. 26, The Day of Goodwill. While it is called Boxing Day in England, and many other westernized nations, South Africa kept the historic tradition of charity alive. Traditionally they spend the day at beaches, shopping or relaxing with family, but the holiday is dedicated to giving gifts to the less fortunate.


This year Hanukkah began at sunset on Dec. 20, 2011 and will end at sunset on Dec. 28, 2011. The holiday dates range from late November to late December, depending on the Hebrew calendar. Also known as the Festival of Lights, this Jewish festival commemorates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem in 2nd century BCE.

A family playing a traditional dreidel game next to a nine-branched Menorah.

The eight-day festival is observed by lighting one candle on a candelabrum each night. Families spin a traditional dreidel, give out gold coins and eat dried food to celebrate the miracle of oil. Also, the concept of giving gifts is becoming a new tradition amongst Jewish families.

While each country has it’s own traditions, customs, holidays and celebrations, we all share many of the same values. Here are some additional upcoming holidays to keep in mind:


January 2012- 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *