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The Top 10 Holidays Around the World

The Top 10 Holidays Around the World

A Little girl making Rangoli and decorating with Oil lamps for Diwali celebration in India.
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The Top 10 Holidays worldwide – their background, key events, and traditions. We suggest that celebrating holidays may be a meaningful way of fulfilling human spiritual needs. Holidays commemorating religious or national events are a particular time, apart from our day-to-day existence. Our calendar is patterned around mythical sacred moments where we plot our lives and create holidays. In the past, the Greek Horae, goddesses who danced their way through the seasons based on annual botanical and astronomical cycles, reflected the mythical nature of holidays. The names of our days and months are derived mainly from pagan deities. This article discusses the top ten holidays worldwide based on historical, psychological, cultural, and religious events. Finally, we examine how holidays likely originated in pre-literate societies, leading to those in literate cultures, and how holidays and their myths evolve with cultural changes.

While researching the history of holidays, a series of questions came to mind. How did Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday become a national holiday? Why do we exchange presents on Christmas and Chanukah? What do bunnies have to do with Easter? How did Earth Day become a global holiday? The book We Are What We Celebrate argues that holidays such as Halloween, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, New Year’s Eve, and Valentine’s Day play an important role in reinforcing, and sometimes redefining, our values and tradition as a unified society.

We examine the critical role such celebrations play in maintaining a moral order, cementing family bonds, building community relations, and creating a national identity. This analysis of holidays brings new meaning to how we celebrate and what those celebrations tell us about ourselves and our communities.

Currently, all around the world, many non-working days are set aside to commemorate political, cultural, and religious events related to a country’s norms and traditions. Cambodia enjoys the most non-working days in Asia, with 28 public holidays in a year, according to data collected by the World Atlas, followed by Sri Lanka, India, and the Philippines.

Everyone looks forward to holidays, whether it’s a day of rest, remembrance, giving thanks, or partying. Not only do holidays breathe new life into our busy schedules, but they also remind us how wonderful it is to be alive. Keep reading for the top 10 international holidays to see if your favorites made the list.

 

  1. Christmas

Historically, the concept of the Christmas holiday has evolved from an event banned in some American colonies to one that dominates the month of December. A Gallup survey conducted in 2000 shows that almost 96% of Americans celebrate this holiday (Gallup Organization, 2000). In this context, few other holidays change a nation’s image and its citizens’ behavior, as does Christmas. Offices close down, people travel home, billions of dollars are spent on gifts, endless strings of lights are hung in homes and city squares, and church pews fill up. Many themes intermingle during the holiday. Originally, this event celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, who preached love, peace, and anti-materialism doctrine. Moreover, the day of Christmas also involves renewing ties with extended family and engaging in traditions such as feasting, caroling, and decorating an evergreen. Increasingly, however, the materialistic elements of the Christmas holiday have become predominant, with the primary figure of reverence being Santa Claus, a “secular version of Christ” whose “realm is that of material abundance” (Belk, 1993, p. 83).

In addition, Modern Christmas traditions can be traced back to the story of Saint Nicholas, who has slowly turned into the Santa Claus character, we all know and love today. Some common traditions around the world include decorating a tree, sending Christmas cards to families and friends, exchanging gifts, going to church, and sharing a feast, ensuring a Merry Christmas!

 

  1. Hanukkah

Hanukka, the Hebrew word for “dedication.” is another popular winter holiday. This celebration takes place over eight days. It unites Jewish people around the world to celebrate their religion and history. Unlike Christmas, Hanukkah’s origin story isn’t a peaceful one. Around 200 B.C., Israel was controlled by Syrians and Greeks. During one terrible event called the Maccabean Revolt, thousands of people were killed, and Jerusalem’s holy Second Temple was destroyed. Despite these awful events, heroes were able to rise and seek justice. Judah Maccabee, the main character, the son of a Jewish priest, rose to power and helped Israel reclaim Jerusalem within two years of fighting. To reclaim their culture, Judah’s priority was to restore the Second Temple to its original glory. Hanukkah was originally a ritual festival, as the Maccabees dedicated the defiled Temple for eight days; it is therefore referred to as “the days of the dedication of the altar” (Regev, 2006).

Besides lighting the menorah and reciting prayers, Hanukkah includes many other exciting activities. Children enjoy playing with dreidels, loved ones exchange Hanukkah cards and gifts, and many traditional Jewish foods are prepared, such as latkes (potato pancakes), sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts), and challah (braided bread) are also served to enjoy this event.

 

  1. New Year

Historically, the first New Year’s celebration was recorded over 4,000 years ago in ancient Babylon. The new year’s date has changed over the centuries; presently, most cultures restart their calendar on January 1st. This means people like celebrating their successes and saying goodbye to any hardships by December 31st.

Similarly, in the earlier phase of human history, the new year was tied to local farming and religious customs. When life was renewed in spring, many cultures felt like they had a fresh start. During their festivities, they would feast and exchange simple gifts with their neighbors to ensure the rest of their year could be merry.

In the contemporary world, our New Year parties are becoming more popular among all nations around the world. People from most cultures send out New Year’s Eve invitations for elaborate parties, stock up on champagne and snacks, and dance the night away with their loved ones. No matter where you go, you’re guaranteed to witness a countdown and firework show when the clock strikes midnight between January 1st and December 31.

In many countries, like America, one tradition is to kiss someone at midnight. In London, Big Ben awakens to ring in the new year. If you visit Thailand, don’t be surprised to see people climbing in and out of coffins. In their culture, this is a way to ward off bad luck, pay their respects to the dead, and renew themselves.

 

  1. Chinese New Year

The Chinese New Year is celebrated across Asia and by the Asian worldwide diaspora. Although this holiday has Chinese in the name, the festivities are so charming that plenty of other people join in the fun. The Chinese New Year doesn’t have a set date since it follows the lunar calendar, but the celebrations usually take place in late January up until mid-February.

While celebrating a new year, this holiday also showcases the Chinese Zodiac signs. In this context, each year is represented by a different animal. 2023 is the year of the rabbit, symbolizing luck, mercy, elegance, and beauty.

There are several ways people celebrate the Chinese New Year. One is the popular lion dance; another is setting off firecrackers. Red is viewed as a lucky color, and you can see tons of red decorations and red Chinese New Year cards in streets and markets. You’ll also see parades with stunning displays and fun characters.

This holiday is one of the most loved celebrations in Asia, which means lots of people travel either for a vacation or to visit with loved ones. Since China is so populated, some travel experts believe the Chinese New Year is the busiest travel date in the world. You can’t have a proper party without food. Traditional Chinese New Year foods have significant meanings that can influence the upcoming year. Dumplings and spring rolls are served to improve wealth, noodles to increase longevity, and sweet rice balls to strengthen family bonds.

 

  1. Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr

The event of Ramadan is the most sacred month of the year for more than 1 billion Muslims. This month of fasting, introspection, and devotion to God is one of the more physically demanding months within the Muslim calendar. Still, followers maintain that the spiritual rewards far outweigh the sacrifices. Believed to be the time that the sacred Muslim text, the Quran, was revealed, Muslims consider Ramadan necessary for revitalizing their spiritual lives. Muslims are required to fast during the daylight hours and to abstain from certain behaviors, such as lying or smoking, which can taint this sacred period. The end of the month of Ramadan is celebrated in a three-day festival called Eid al-Fitr, a time for friends and families to get together, make amends, and extend forgiveness. Ramadan describes the various customs and traditions of Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr celebrations in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, North America, and Oceania and how social and political influences have shaped these observances.

Ramadan begins during the ninth month of the Muslim calendar at the start of the new moon. Eid al-Fitr cannot start until the new moon of the following month, which signifies that a whole month of fasting has been completed. Ramadan typically falls in April or May, and Eid al-Fitr follows a month later.

Muslims believe fasting is a way to atone for sins and deepen their connection to Allah. If people have the strength to abstain from food, it gives them the confidence to abstain from other harmful temptations. Although children aren’t required to fast, many young and old Muslims are excited about Ramadan because it’s a particular holy month.

During Eid al-Fitr, Muslims visit loved ones, exchange cards and gifts, feast, and pray in public spaces together. Typical Eid al-Fitr dishes include Maamoul (stuffed shortbread cookies), sheer khurma (date milk), and Doro wat (curry stew). Therefore, the holidays of Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr promote harmony, tolerance, and unity among all the Muslims of the world.

 

  1. Easter

Easter is one of the Christian Church’s most devout ceremonies (just before Christmas in importance). It is the first of the five cardinal feasts of the Catholic liturgical year. It commemorates the resurrection of Jesus Christ as told in the Bible, the third day after his passion. During this one week, many biblical prophesies were fulfilled. The ceremony begins on Easter Sunday, which for Catholics marks the end of fasting for Lent, and lasts for eight days—the Octave of Easter.

Customs dating back to ancient times designed to celebrate the return of spring became attached to Easter. The egg is the symbol of germination that occurs in early spring. Similarly, the hare is also an ancient symbol that represents fertility. This custom of the Easter egg was founded among Coptic Christians in the late fifth century; it is perhaps in memory of ardent eggs (ova ignite) with which the martyrs were tortured or the red egg laid by an imperial hen on the day of the birth of Alexander Severus in 208 BC. Offering eggs in spring dates back to the ancient Persians and Egyptians.

Easter is when Christians honor Jesus’ resurrection, three days after his crucifixion. Since there are different branches of Christianity, Easter can fall on any Sunday between March 22nd and May 8th, depending on which calendar you follow. In both western and eastern Christianity, Easter is the conclusion of Lent, which is a 40-day fast.

Other fun traditions include dyeing Easter eggs, going on an Easter egg hunt, and exchanging Easter cards with tasty treats. Peeps and chocolate bunnies have become western cultures’ most iconic Easter sweets. An Easter feast is also expected on this holy day.  Most religious families visit the church and pray to celebrate the resurrection. Easter is perhaps the most notable Christian holiday of the year, with a more solemn aspect than Christmas.

 

  1. Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is the event that is loved and loathed. It is a time for rituals and romance in the U.S. This holiday is worthy of debate owing to the unique consumption and exchange of roses, cards, grooming, dating, and romance-based consumer behaviors associated with this holiday. Some of these Valentine-related behaviors are ritualized to the extent that they inform consumer behavior, leading marketers to product and service opportunities. Individuals in romantic relationships especially enact consumer rituals for this holiday. Generally, Valentine’s Day is perceived as celebrating romantic relationships, yet, this day also celebrates other non-romantic relationships, such as family and friends.

Historically, although we consider Valentine’s Day a holiday for lovers, the history of Valentine’s Day is much darker. Experts who have studied past centuries have noted that several saints named Valentine could be responsible for the holiday’s title. However, these saints were neither romantic nor had happy life stories. In ancient Rome, Christians were often persecuted with violence that could go as far as beheadings.

These barbaric acts continued despite these saints’ tragic endings, and it wasn’t until the 14th century that honoring St. Valentin’s became romanticized. Chaucer, a famous poet, made a literary connection between the holiday and bird mating. Later Shakespeare began associating the St. Valentin’s feast with love. In this sense, letters of adoration were written, romantic gestures were planned, and February became known as the month of mating.

Traditionally, Valentine’s Day celebrations worldwide include giving partners Valentine’s Day cards, roses, heart-shaped gifts, jewelry, and cute stuffed animals. Romantic dinner dates are also expected, with some restaurants so popular that couples have to make reservations months in advance!

 

  1. Diwali

Diwali, the festival of lights, is a major Hindu holiday that pays homage to the gods and marks the beginning of a new year. Many Hindus call upon Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity, by lighting an abundance of lamps. Not only do these lights welcome the goddess, but the light is also a Hindu symbol of knowledge and everything good in the world. Hinduism is an ancient religion with plenty of rich and fascinating traditions that go back thousands of years. One thing that is common across most of the variations of Hinduism is the celebration of Diwali.

The word “Diwali” is a contraction of the Sanskrit word “Dipavali,” which means “row of lights.” Diwali is a festival of lights that occurs at the end of the Hindu month of Ashwayuja, somewhere between October and November on our calendar. Diwali is celebrated over five to six days, depending on which days of the holiday one recognizes. Throughout the holiday, oil lamps are put out all along the roads, in people’s businesses, and around their homes. One reason is to welcome Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity, into homes and businesses. This activity grants good fortune for the year ahead. Similarly, this event is related to the legend of Ramayana, one of the main stories that Diwali is based on. To understand Diwali, it is essential to know the stories it is based on, especially the Ramayana.

During the Diwali festival, there are many feasts, exchanges of Diwali cards and gifts, fireworks, and spending time with loved ones. Many people believe that gambling will bring them good fortune for the rest of the year.

 

  1. Halloween

Halloween is a little-studied consumption holiday that is considered a distorted image of the other major American consumption holiday: Christmas. In comparison, during the Christmas celebration, adults wear costumes (of Santa Claus) and extort good behavior from children with threats that durable goods will be withheld. Conversely, in contemporary Halloween celebrations, American children wear costumes (of “evil” beings) and extort threats of nondurable goods from adults with threats of property destruction. Moreover, in-Halloween rituals, children leave home and family to join other children for an evening of pranks to obtain unhealthy candy in a decidedly nonreligious atmosphere.

In America, Halloween is a crazy day where people dress up in costumes, binge on candy, and party like there’s no tomorrow. The best Halloween parties are filled with creepy decorations, spooky music, frightening food and drinks, and strange games. This holiday is exciting for kids and adults alike because it’s a chance to become someone or something else and let loose. At night, you’ll find many streets flooded with kids traveling from house to house as they hunt for the best treats in town.

Likewise, in other countries. Japanese people celebrate the western Halloween tradition and throw a Kawasaki Halloween Parade in Tokyo each year. During this event, more than 4,000 people take over the streets dressed in impressive costumes. This event is so popular that you must apply months in advance to join the parade.

 

  1. Bodhi Day

This Day is a Buddhist holiday commemorating the day the Buddha achieved enlightenment, translated as bodhi in Sanskrit or Pali. The Buddha was born as Siddhartha Gautama into a noble and privileged household. When he was close to 30 years old, he abandoned his material lifestyle and moved to the forest seeking answers to the problem of suffering, specifically old age, sickness, and death. According to tradition, he initially sought bodhi (enlightenment) through meditation, mortification, and practicing other austerities. After several years of intense practice, he realized that bodhi was to be found through meditation, but through a Middle Way, away from the extremes of mortification and self-indulgence. The story goes that he meditated in Bodh Gaya, a town in northeastern India, under a Banyan tree, now famously known as the Bodhi tree, and resolved to continue meditating until he achieved enlightenment or bodhi.

Historically, the date of Bodhi Day relies on when Vesak approaches. Vesak is a holy combination of Buddha’s birth, life, and death. If you’re a Theravada or Tibetan Buddhist, you’ll celebrate Bodhi Day in one day. If you’re a Mahayana Buddhist, Bodhi Day is spread across three days.

Similarly, more social Buddhists gather to share tea, treats, and read Buddhist texts aloud. Again, in Japan, this day is known as Rohatsu, and many Buddhists celebrate the holy day by going on an intensive week-long meditation retreat. No matter how you celebrate this event, Bodhi Day is a representation of what Buddhists must do every day to make their lives more meaningful through Buddhist teachings.

 

An opportunity to rejoice, reflect, and look forward

Holidays are significant irrespective of your beliefs, caste, color, and region. These days enrich our lives through fun and enjoyment. Moreover, they’re also a reminder to slow down and appreciate the beauty of life. Whether you’re celebrating Valentine’s Day or giving thanks during a religious celebration, every holiday has a special meaning with valuable lessons to be learned. And, of course, the best way to spend any holiday is with the warmth shared by friends, family members, and loved ones.

 

 

Edited by Michael Moss

 

 

 

 

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