All people who belong to the various religions commemorate their God and greatest Saints on certain days or periods of the year. The traditions are quite different and the diversity of celebrations across the globe is amazing, indeed. For sure, more than a post is needed to describe them all and emphasize on their peculiarities. But, as a matter of fact, it’s not my aim at all. I just want to share with you what I know from my friends from all over the world about some of their biggest celebrations and traditions. And here they are.
Both Orthodox folks and Catholics celebrate the birth of Christ (Christmas) on December 25 every year. Christian children look forward to the presents which white-bearded Santa Claus will bring them. They hang stocking over the fireplace (or leave out a shoe in France) where they find their gifts left by the famous resident of Lapland. The good-hearted gift-giver, actually, adopted his name from Saint Nicholas (a Greek bishop who lived in Myra, today’s Turkey, and was popular among poor people for his generous presents). Nowadays Santa Claus has various names like Babbo Natale in Italy, Father Christmas in Great Britain, Kris Kringle in Austria and Germany, Père Noël in France, etc..
By the way, residents of Mexico and many parts of Central America start Christmas celebrations nine days before it. They reenact Joseph and Maria’s journey to find out a shelter before their child’s birth. This typical celebration is called La Posada.
Another Christian holiday is Easter. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is commemorated on different dates by the Orthodox and Catholic Christians (but sometimes they happen to celebrate it on the same date) depending on the Julian and Gregorian calendars. Easter customs are various but they are related to the Easter Bunny (also known as the Easter Hare) and Easter eggs. In general, Easter shops are full of chocolate Easter rabbits as kids believe that rabbits lay their eggs in the grass. As to the customs connected with eggs, for example, we paint real eggs in various colours and draw figures on them in Bulgaria. The Germans make “Easter egg trees” resembling Christmas ones. Hungarian lads sprinkle perfumed water over girls and the latter prepare a holiday dinner for them, in return.
Many nations celebrate the Festival of Lights. Surely, the most famous one is Indian Diwali which is not observed on a certain date but it is always either in October or November every year. It’s a true feast of light as billions of tiny clay saucers with oil and a cotton wick are lighted up and placed close to every house, along roads and they are even floated along the sacred Ganges River. The belief is that once floated they should reach the other bank still lit. And all this is done in the honour of the Goddess of prosperity – Lakshmi.
The Japanese also light up candles and put them in lanterns. The latter are also floated along rivers and seas. This way they commemorate and keep the memory of their dead ancestors, family members and friends alive. This summer feast is called Obon.
The Jews also light up candles in a specially designed candleholder whose name is menorah. Thus they keep an ancient miracle alive and a candle burns in the course of eight days in their temple. This feast takes please either in November or December and it’s called Hanukkah. The Jews eat latkes (potato pancakes), sing cheerful songs and spin a dreidel (a wooden top) to win sweets, nuts, chocolate and so on, and so forth.
If we go back to Europe, we can also see wreaths of burning candles. They are worn by Swedish girls dressed in long white gowns with wide red belts (i.e. sashes) on Santa Lucia Day. These “Lucia Brides” wake up their beloved ones early in the morning on December 13 by singing their songs and bringing them “Lucia cats” (no worries … these are not cats but twisted buns from saffron) and a cup of aromatic coffee. Thus maidens express their gratitude to the third-century saint – Santa Lucia.
And my feast travel will end up in Wyoming and with Arapaho Sun Dance. This is a ritual of the members of Plains Indian tribes like Cheyenne, Arapaho, Shoshone and others who dance around a pole with a head of buffalo on the top. Thus they express their wish for good fortune through the forthcoming year and a buffalo is their symbol of prosperity.