As the year draws to a close, people from various corners of the world come together to celebrate the festive season. At SISD, we are lucky enough to host students of over 100 different nationalities, so we see families celebrating their festive seasons in many different ways. While the essence of these celebrations is universal — joy, love, and togetherness — the way they are expressed varies greatly across cultures. We believe these differences are to be embraced and appreciated by all, so we thought we would show our appreciation for our students and their cultures by looking at some of the many different festive celebrations that will be taking place this year.
One of the most widely celebrated festivals globally is Christmas. While the central theme revolves around the birth of Jesus Christ, each culture infuses its own traditions and customs into the festivities. In the United States, families gather around a decorated Christmas tree on December 25th to exchange gifts. In Scandinavian countries, like Sweden and Norway, the celebration begins with the feast of Saint Lucy on December 13th, marked by processions of children wearing crowns of candles.
Diwali in India
Known as the Festival of Lights, Diwali is a major Hindu celebration in India and other South Asian countries. Lasting five days, Diwali signifies the victory of light over darkness and good over evil. Homes are adorned with oil lamps and colourful rangoli designs, and families come together for feasts and the bursting of fireworks. It’s a time for spiritual reflection, as well as for cleaning and decorating homes to welcome the goddess Lakshmi.
Hanukkah in Jewish Culture
Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, is a significant Jewish celebration that typically falls in December. Lasting eight nights, it commemorates the miracle of the oil in the ancient temple. Jewish families light the menorah, a nine-branched candelabrum, over the eight nights, adding one candle each day. Traditional foods like latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly-filled doughnuts) are enjoyed during this joyous time.
Chinese New Year
Celebrated in many Asian countries, the Chinese New Year marks the beginning of the lunar new year. Festivities include vibrant parades, dragon and lion dances, and the giving of red envelopes (hongbao) containing money for good luck. Families come together for a reunion dinner, featuring dishes symbolizing prosperity and good fortune. Each year is associated with an animal sign from the Chinese zodiac, adding an extra layer of meaning to the celebration.
Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr
In the Islamic calendar, Ramadan is a month of fasting, prayer, and reflection. Muslims abstain from food and drink during daylight hours, breaking their fast with a meal called iftar at sunset. The end of Ramadan is marked by Eid al-Fitr, a festival that begins with a special prayer and is characterised by feasts, gift-giving, and acts of charity. The emphasis is on gratitude, community, and compassion.
Kwanzaa in the African American Community
Kwanzaa is a week-long celebration that originated in the United States and is observed primarily by African Americans. Created in 1966, Kwanzaa focuses on seven core principles, known as the Nguzo Saba, including unity, self-determination, and collective work and responsibility. Families light a kinara (candleholder) each night, representing the seven principles, and engage in activities that honour African heritage and culture.
Holi in Hindu Tradition
Holi, known as the Festival of Colors, is celebrated with enthusiasm and joy in Hindu communities, especially in India and Nepal. It marks the arrival of spring and the triumph of good over evil. Participants engage in playful and vibrant colour throwing, symbolic of breaking down social barriers and promoting unity. Traditional sweets and festive dishes are shared, and communities come together for lively processions and dances.
The festive season is a time when people around the world come together to celebrate, express gratitude, and create lasting memories with loved ones. Despite the cultural diversity reflected in these celebrations, the underlying themes of joy, togetherness, and hope are universal. Whether it’s the twinkling lights of Christmas trees, the vibrant colours of Holi, or the symbolic traditions of Hanukkah, each culture contributes to the rich tapestry of global festivities, showcasing the beauty of diversity and shared humanity. As we enter into the festive season, let us appreciate the uniqueness of each tradition and find common ground in the spirit of celebration that unites us all.
At SISD, we pride ourselves on being one of the most inclusive schools in the world. The diversity of our students and their families mean that we have the pleasure of seeing cultures and peoples from all over the planet mixing with one another and uniting through a shared passion for education. To learn more, visit our Inclusion page and speak to Admissions today if you would like to enquire further.