“Festivus for the Rest of Us”

We’re lucky to get to celebrate many different types of holidays in Canada because of its diversity. Here’s a rundown of various types of holidays that some countries, people and cultures celebrate around the holiday season.

Bodhi Day – December 8

Bodhi Day (or Rohatsu) is celebrated on December 8 or on the Sunday before. This day is in remembrance of the day Buddha found enlightenment under the fig tree. He then and there started a journey of self-discovery, achieving calm awareness, understanding life and death and understanding that actions create their own destinies. Celebrations on that day involve meditation, colourful decorations of pictures or statues of Buddha under a fig tree, and eating a meal of rice and milk.

Winter Solstice – Variable

Because this one-day celebration depends on which night has the longest nighttime, it falls on a different day in December every year. With that being said, it can be as early as December 20 or as late as December 23. This day celebrates the return of the sun and light. Several cultures celebrate it and each of them celebrates it differently. Festivities for Northern Arizona’s Hopis include dancing, gift-giving and crafting prayer sticks. For Iran, festivities include food – especially nuts and pomegranates – and some stay awake until sunrise as a way to welcome the sun. In Antarctica, festivities include food, films and handmade gifts. In Scandinavia, festivities include lighting fires to ward off spirits on this long night. Finally, in China, festivities include a meal in celebration of the year that precedes that night.

Hanukkah – Variable

This eight-day feast is also known as Chanukah, the Feast of Dedication, or the Festival of Lights. Its first day falls somewhere between November 30 and December 30.  Its origins go back centuries ago to a three-year war fought by the Maccabees for religious freedom that ended in the Maccabees recapturing Jerusalem from Antiochus, the Syrian king at the time. Even though the candle in the recaptured temple had oil that could only light up for one day, it kept burning for eight days. Festivities include lighting up one candle on the Hanukiah (an eight-stemmed candelabrum), and playing games using a dreidel.

Kwanzaa – December 26

The name is derived from “Matunda ya kwanza” or first fruits of the harvest in Swahili. It’s a week-long celebration of African-American heritage that was created in 1966 by professor and chairman of Black Studies at California State University, Long Beach, Dr. Maulana Karenga. Celebrations vary from family to family, but mostly involve singing, dancing, drumming, storytelling, poetry reading, food and gift-giving. Each day of the week-long celebration, a candle is lit and one of the seven principles of Kwanzaa is discussed.

The seven principles are unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith.

Learn more about Kwanzaa here

Las Posadas – December 16-24

This nine-day religious (Catholic) festival started out In Spain, but is now celebrated in Mexico, Guatemala, and some parts of the United States. This celebration commemorates Mary and Joseph’s journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Festivities begin with a child dressed as an angel and holding a candle, leading a procession that moves from house to another.




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