Holiday traditions from around the world

Evie M. Warner, Contributing Writer

Christmas shares the month with nine other holidays according to the University of Kansas Medical Center’s Diversity Calendar. While there is not enough space to go into all of them, here are the highlights of some of these celebrations.

Day of Ashura: According to the BBC, Sunni and Shi’a Muslims celebrate for very different reasons.  For the Sunni Muslims this day of fasting marks what they believe are two historical events:  the day Noah left the Ark, and the day Moses was saved from the Egyptians by Allah.  Shi’a Muslims in particular commemorate the martyrdom of the Prophet’s grandson in the year 680.  It is a solemn day with plays staged to re-enacting his martyrdom and taking part in mourning rituals.

Bodhi Day: Dec. 8 is commemorated by followers of Mahayana, a form of Buddhism, according to an article on boldsky.com.  It celebrates the day Buddha sat under the Bodhi tree to receive enlightenment.  It is not as widely celebrated as Buddha’s birthday.  Observers of this day celebrate it by having different colored lights strung about their houses, which signify the different paths to enlightenment.

Christmas Day:  Since 2005 parents everywhere have been taking an elf doll, putting it on the shelf and telling their children that it will sit there all day.  At night the elf will return to the North Pole and tell Santa whether you were good or bad.  This came from the brilliant imagination of the mother/daughter writing team of Carol Aebersold and Chanda Bell.  A much older tradition includes the Swedish tradition of putting almonds in rice pudding cups and whoever received the almond was the next to marry.

While Christmas is observed in dozens of countries, not everyone observes it on the same day.  Orthodox Coptic Christians in Egypt do not celebrate Christmas until Jan. 7 because of the Julian calendar, which has a 14-day difference from the Gregorian calendar used by Western Christians.

Boxing Day:  According to a brief history of Boxing Day blog post on time.com, Boxing Day is celebrated by most countries in the Common Wealth but no one agrees on why or when it started.  Boxing Day has been a national holiday in England, Wales, Ireland and Canada since 1871. Whenever the holiday falls on a weekend, the celebration is moved to make sure workers still get a day off. Canada still observes it on Dec. 26 and is considered one of the biggest shopping days of the season.

The Christmas carol “Good King Wenceslas” may or may not be a clue.  The song is about the Duke of Bohemia who was moved when he saw a poor man gathering firewood in the middle of a snowstorm on Dec. 26. Wenceslas gathered surplus food and wine and carried it all through the blizzard.  Thus, people were encouraged the day after Christmas to continue to remember the poor and their servants.

The way it is observed depends on where you live.  In Britain they hold annual Boxing Day fox hunts.  The Irish have the tradition of hunting wrens.  Some say that during the Battle of Kinsale, an overly vocal wren gave away the Irish’s position to English invaders.  This too, is highly debated.  Today, a fake wren is used and is tied to a stick and paraded through the town.

Print Friendly